The Korea Herald


Samsung’s new foldables more practical, but lack ‘wow’

Company bets on foldable market growth as challenges mount from Xiaomi and rivals

By Song Su-hyun

Published : Aug. 11, 2021 - 23:00

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Samsung President Roh Tae-moon presents the Galaxy Z Fold3 and Z Flip3 during Samsung Unpacked on Wednesday. (Samsung Electronics) Samsung President Roh Tae-moon presents the Galaxy Z Fold3 and Z Flip3 during Samsung Unpacked on Wednesday. (Samsung Electronics)

Samsung Electronics is making a big bet on the fate of its smartphone business by replenishing its flagship lineup for the remaining 2021 with cheaper, more durable foldable smartphones.

The Korean tech giant presented the Galaxy Z Fold3 and Galaxy Z Flip3, two models of the Galaxy Watch4 and the wireless ear buds Galaxy Buds2, in a Galaxy Unpacked show that was live-streamed from Seoul at 11 p.m. Wednesday.

The third-generation models of the inwardly folding Z Fold and clamshell-type Z Flip phone series had no “wow” factor in terms of folding technology or user experience. 

The difference mainly comes down to durability.

Reflecting requests of current foldable phone users, Samsung focused its efforts on reinforcing the hardware of the gadgets.

So for the first time, the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 and Z Flip3 both are water-resistant.

Both have IPX8 water resistance, so users no longer have to worry about getting caught in the rain.

Samsung also adopted an upgraded Gorilla Glass Victus that is 50 percent stronger than the previous models for the main screens, and a new protective film that is 80 percent more durable.

For the hinge, the company used armor aluminum that makes the folding system 10 percent stronger.

And while keeping the size of the main screens of the Galaxy Z Fold3 and Z Flip3 unchanged -- 7.6 inches for the Fold and 6.7 inches for the Flip -- Samsung slightly reduced the total weights and thicknesses of the latest editions to make them look slimmer and sleeker.

The weight of Galaxy Z Fold3 was cut by 11 grams to 271 grams compared to Z Fold2.

What can be touted as the most innovative technology this time is the under display camera on the Galaxy Z Fold3, which allows a “true full-screen experience.”

Known as UDC technology, Samsung added extra pixels on the top of the camera hole on the main screen of Galaxy Z Fold3, which means the screen doesn’t have a gap in the corner where the front-facing camera is, unlike existing phones with notch or hole-punch designs.

(Samsung Electronics) (Samsung Electronics)

To offset its decision to discontinue the beloved Galaxy Note series from this year, the company added the stylus S Pen to Galaxy Z Fold3.

It introduced a new S Pen edition for the foldable, which is smaller and lighter than the S Pen that came with the Note series.

“With Galaxy Z Fold3 and Z Flip3, Samsung is once again redefining the possibilities with foldable smartphones that empower users with the flexibility and versatility needed for today’s fast-paced world,” said Roh Tae-moon, president and head of mobile communications at Samsung.

“As a pioneer and industry leader in the foldable category, we’re proud to build on our legacy of innovation with the Z Fold3 and Z Flip3. These devices equip consumers with technologies that unlock new ways to maximize and enjoy every moment with an ecosystem built on openness and innovation.”

Samsung is shifting a significant portion of its efforts from the current flagship Galaxy S series to the foldable lineup. According to market forecasts, the foldable phone market is expected to grow 113 percent from 0.7 million units in 2019 to 117 million in 2025.

Samsung, the world’s largest smartphone vender, is beginning to see signs of its market grip weakening, in the face of cheaper Chinese phones.

The firm seemed to fare well even in the shrinking smartphone market until last year, but in June, Xiaomi edged Samsung as the world’s No. 1 phone brand in terms of shipments, taking 17.1 percent of the global market, according to Counterpoint Research.

Samsung’s strategy to counter Xiaomi and other rivals is to offer higher-quality phones at more affordable prices.

The company also reduced the prices of both Galaxy Z devices, it said.

The Z Fold3 is available at $1,799.99, and Galaxy Z Flip3 $999.99, starting from Aug. 27 in select markets, including the US, Europe and Korea.