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This article was published on August 12, 2021

Samsung’s foldables will never flourish until they’re as good as regular phones

And that, friends, is gonna take some time

Samsung’s foldables will never flourish until they’re as good as regular phones
Callum Booth
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Callum Booth

Editor of Plugged by TNW

Callum is an Englishman in Amsterdam, but not in the way you're thinking. He's the Editor of Plugged, TNW's consumer tech vertical. He w Callum is an Englishman in Amsterdam, but not in the way you're thinking. He's the Editor of Plugged, TNW's consumer tech vertical. He writes about gear, gadgets, and apps — with a particular focus on Apple — and also makes the occasional odd video. Basically, he's halfway between an abrasive gadget nerd and thinky art boy.

At yesterday’s Samsung Unpacked, the tech giant announced its new foldables: the Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Z Flip 3.

You can go and read all about the update to the phones (as well as the other products the company announced) right here, but I’d like to focus on the major takeaway of this event — the price drop.

Yep, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Galaxy Z Flip 3 now start at $1,799 and $999, respectively. This is down from $2,000 and $1,450 last time around. Effectively, the price of the Flip 3 has been reduced by a third. 

That’s an insane discount for a piece of premium tech.

It’s pretty clear why Samsung is slashing the prices of its folding phones: to try and get the public to buy them.

Now, I’ve seen a lot of discussion in the tech sphere about what it’d take for foldables to go mainstream. Is it about price? Form factor? How they actually fit into your daily workflow? The list goes on and on.

But it’s much simpler than all this hand-wringing suggests. People will use foldables when they’re as good as regular phones. That’s it.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 foldable
This is the Galaxy Z Flip 3, the cheaper of Samsung’s two new foldables.

On one level, this goes without saying. All the durability and water-proofing improvements are Samsung‘s way of trying to make these folding devices as good as a regular phone.

Thing is… I’d be absolutely gobsmacked if the foldables are even 80% as good as a standard handset. This isn’t a criticism per se — making these flexible displays is a scientific marvel in itself — just a statement of where the technology currently is.

This price drop is bound to allure some curious figures, yet when you consider you can get a baseline iPhone 12 Pro — a device that has gone through countless generations of tinkering improvement — for the same price, it’s hard to justify the Flip 3.

At the end of the day, a phone is the item we use the most. Minor annoyances become major ones simply by how often we’re confronted by them.

I have no doubt that, eventually, foldable phones will become the norm. But that won’t be today. Or even next year. Instead, there needs to come a point where using a foldable gives you an experience that’s almost indistinguishable from normal handsets. That’s when the category will fly.

Or, you know, when Apple releases one.

Until that time, Samsung is laying an impressive foundation in the field — and I’m certain the Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Z Flip 3 will be important watermarks for foldables. They’re just not gonna be the moment we all rush out to get one.

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