it has become Something of a tradition: Samsung announces an Unpacked and all or most of the big product leaks in the weeks before the event. Sometimes the leaks come before the event’s announcement, sometimes after, but any hope of keeping its biggest news under wraps has largely gone out the windows.
Samsung has adopted this tradition to some extent. It’s become common practice for the company to — at least — take the hell out of products ahead of their official launch. This time, it’s foldable. The company has not only said that – it has included a handy image of the Galaxy Z Flip 4 in the invitation to the big event on the 10th.
As has become tradition, TM Roh, head of Samsung Mobile, offered a pre-event toast of sorts, covering some of the broader industry trends that have led up to the moment. Especially this time out, it’s the state of the union on the foldable. I would say, here are some real head-turning statistics.
“Last year, we shipped about 10 million foldable smartphones worldwide. This is an industry growth of over 300% from 2020, and I anticipate this to continue to grow at a rapid pace,” explains Roh.
The moment it killed off the beloved Galaxy Note line for good, the company announced its foldables as a second flagship device (or, perhaps, a second and a third, depending on how you slice it). It’s safe to say the company gunned down there, but credit where it’s due: 10 million is an impressive race for new form factors selling at prime prices — and up. Durability concerns are largely in the rearview, and the company completely dominates foldable sales, with the company estimated to be around 80% of the market.
What makes the numbers all the more remarkable is that they fly in the face of big trends. After quarter-on-quarter bad news, phone sales have increased. The bright spots in numbers are generally budget and mid-range phones. Meanwhile, Samsung is seeing tremendous growth in the $1,000 and above price category. Obviously, the 300% figure is partly due to things starting with a fairly low number, but the trends are impressive nonetheless. They are also indicative of users with disposable inking to find something new in a stagnant market.
However you may feel about foldables in general, you really can’t deny that they are – at the very least – something different.
Samsung has not been untouched by the global handset slowdown. In May, reports emerged that the company was cutting production by 30%. earlier today, Reuters noted That workers in Vietnam were suffering big losses from slow sales. Of course, all of this has to be seen through the lens of Samsung maintaining its place at the top of global smartphone sales for the time being. That is to say, things are slowing down, but the company is doing pretty well compared to other manufacturers.
Rohs also used this opportunity to confirm something we were thoroughly skeptical about: Most people prefer the flip form factor to the fold — 70% of buyers prefer clamshells, turned out. Samsung might be the only one who is really shocked by this fact. I noted in my original Flip review that this was the first time I could actually picture myself using a foldable as a daily driver. Samsung too often falls into the trap of making bigger, heavier devices, but the Flip is far more pocketable and more affordable.
There’s no doubt why it made it to the event invite. Going forward, the Samsung Press material is expected to see the two foldables look more alike – with the Fold perhaps taking up some of the back seat as well.
This time Flip 4 and Fold 4 are the headliners. Over several generations, Samsung has largely settled on design and form factor. Things have been solidified to such an extent that durability is no longer a primary concern.
The report revolves around some subtle changes to things like the Fold’s hinge, but we’ve otherwise settled into a cycle with these devices receiving an updated cadence similar to devices like the Galaxy S. That means things like a Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 Plus processor, coupled with things like a bigger battery on the flip.
Foldables are the headliners, but the Galaxy Watch 5 may deserve the most attention. Its predecessor found Samsung re-embracing Wear OS through a partnership with Google. But while Samsung is selling smartwatches well, it’s going to face a challenge a little closer to home. Google’s Pixel Watch is a big hail to a company that has so far struggled to deliver on its wearable promise. But the company’s acquisition of Fitbit could offer some real competition to the Galaxy line when the new smartwatch arrives this fall.
Among other things, better battery life and a possible new “Pro” model have been hinted at in the leak.
Samsung is also making quietly good — and even great — earbuds. They lack the flash and marketing push of others in the space, but the Galaxy line has always been a solid choice. Again, the company suddenly got more competition with Google’s new — and very cool — Pixel Buds. The Galaxy Buds 2 Pro is reportedly on the way with a better battery. It’s hard to say how the company could stand out in that highly crowded area.
So, Samsung has got a massive headstart in foldables. Sometimes being the first means stumbling out the gate, but if you’re persistent, it’ll start to pay off. The question is where is the ceiling for adopting the form factor, but Samsung is in the best position to brush up against it at the moment. Apple still beat the company by a mile in smartwatch marketshare, and while the partnership with Google is good news on the app front, it needs to keep an eye on the company to capture its share of the Android compatible smartwatch market. . For the earbuds, the company is pairing a decent product with a massive smartphone marketshare to sport an ecosystem that will move a lot of product.