Above: Samsung’s Galaxy Fold 4. Photos courtesy of Samsung.
BitDepth 1367 for August 15, 2022
On Wednesday, Samsung unveiled the fourth generation of its foldable smartphones, the Flip 4 and Fold 4.
First introduced in 2019, the company has introduced improvements and iterations to the hinge and screen technology.
Samsung is now on the third version of its compact Flip and the fourth version of its tablet challenger, the Fold, and with each new version it’s been aggressive in tackling the challenge of putting two slabs of metal together , connect them with a hinge and place them. a folding screen between the two.
With each revision of these devices, the company has noted improved machining of the hinge mechanism and its increased resistance to water and dust, but neither device is as resistant to intrusions as a single slab of aluminum and glass cast under pressure.
Of the two phones announced last week, the Flip remains the better version of the technology.
The differences between the three Fold versions are subtle. They all successfully take a standard smartphone form factor and fold it into two squares, creating a chunky but intriguing block of aluminum and glass.
It also offers some odd selling points, prompting the company to brag about the value of using the device folded at a right angle and being able to frame a full-resolution selfie with the device’s rear camera and small cover screen.
It all seems a bit of a reach. Has anyone ever decided that a must-have feature of a smartphone is that it can be folded so you can see half the screen?
Still, the company has struggled to sell the Flip as a fashion accessory, offering four basic colors and a custom option to mix and match color options for the top and bottom halves of the new edition. There are also accessories that emphasize fashion over practicality.
Unfortunately, the Flip is still a high-end fashion statement at US$999, a sum that gives you the higher-spec, non-folding S22 Ultra, but you’ll be able to buy a nice case with the change.
The rationale for the Fold 4 is more nebulous. The device has two functional screens, one the size of a standard smartphone screen, the other almost square at 15.5 cm x 13 cm, after opening the device.
It’s a beautiful display for anything that would benefit from increased screen size (https://bit.ly/3xhPhX7). Word processing, web browsing and working with a spreadsheet are all eminently practical.
Some apps make good use of the increased screen size. Most don’t, and the increased screen size makes for a rugged smartphone that’s essentially two S22 Plus bodies joined by a hinge.
This calls for a clear trade-off. Not only is the Fold 4 as big as two S22 Plus devices, it actually costs a little more than a pair at US$1800.
Samsung is making a serious push in the foldable smartphone space. It feels a lot like when Samsung introduced the Note, a huge phone among the stylish pocket devices of its era.
But there are notable differences in execution that the company doesn’t look down on. The Flip and in particular the Fold are really expensive phones. The Fold is specifically within shouting distance of a high-end laptop.
The Note was a little bigger for a little more money, but the jump from the S22 Ultra to the Fold 4 is a circus-level gap, and this isn’t a price point where you try something to see if it works for you . .
Samsung is the market leader in the space and expects to sell ten million foldable phones this year, but according to Statista, the company sold 69 million smartphones in the fourth quarter of 2021 alone.
It’s hard to see how the company will deliver on its ambitions to make half of premium smartphone sales foldable unless it adjusts its price.
The sales pitch for a flip phone collapses under a common-sense assessment. Folding your phone is an indicator that you’re paying attention, but so is putting it face down or better yet, in your pocket or purse.
If you use your phone half-folded, you can get great product photos, but you’re effectively using half the screen.
There is a cool factor to foldables. When I tested the Flip 3, folding a full-sized smartphone into a pocket was a bit of a Bond move.
The Fold 3’s huge screen was tempting real estate for serious typing, but it’s also a very expensive surface for a use case that isn’t a tenth of my daily smartphone use.
Your measurements may vary, and really, vanity is as good a measurement in this price range as any, but it’s hard to see how foldable smartphones at the price their machining demands will be more than a niche product profitable
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