Samsung’s $1,800 Galaxy Z Fold 4 is intentionally out of reach

At the Unpacked event last week, Samsung unveiled its new flagship Galaxy Z Fold 4 foldable phone, which adds better multitasking software, a sleeker design and a more durable body. But one thing that has remained unchanged is its staggering $1,800 price tag — which few consumers can probably afford. But that exclusivity is exactly why the Fold 4 exists.

Keeping the Z Fold 4 about twice as expensive as other premium phones may seem confusing when Samsung wants foldables to become more mainstream, as CEO TM Roh said during Unpacked. I argued that price cuts would be the best way Samsung could fight Apple this holiday period. As Samsung keeps the price of the Z Fold 4 stable, it’s clear that the company is content to keep it a niche device available only to tech enthusiasts with deep pockets.

The Z Fold 4 sits atop a tier in which it has no real rivals. It is essentially a Ferrari in the midst of Mercedes and BMWs. Creating that level of exclusivity is totally the point, giving Samsung an exciting and ambitious product that generates buzz and interest across the entire lineup. A few hundred dollars off the price won’t make a difference, said IDC Research Director Nabila Popal.

Keeping the Z Fold 4 at $1,800 is “the right move in my opinion, even if it won’t be affordable to the masses,” Popal said.

This dynamic, which runs counter to the idea that a cheaper folding card can spark interest in the category, is one of the problems facing this entire area. Foldables occupy an exciting niche of the phone business, which has seen an endless parade of dull metal and glass plates for over a decade. But the high price tag keeps them from really breaking out.

The only answer is to slowly build the market and interest through a combination of exciting but less viable options like the Z Fold 4 and the relatively affordable $1,000 Z Flip 4.

Samsung hopes the Z Fold 4’s dynamic design — which is still impressive — will give the company a head start at Apple’s own event next month and spark excitement about foldable devices in general.

Samsung relies on the Z Flip series to appearance from foldable phones, to temporary phones that change shape. And Samsung has work to do as they are still scarce in the wild, with research firm IDC estimating that just over 7 million foldable smartphones will have been shipped by 2021, compared to 1.3 billion smartphones sold last year.

From a market perspective, the small volume the Z Fold 4 could get could help Samsung reclaim some of its global share of high-end phones as Apple sells seven out of every 10 Premium phones from $800 and above worldwide.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4

Screenshot by CNET

No price cuts while parts are expensive

While price cuts would help Samsung make its foldable phones more mainstream, the company may have little choice but to keep its prices static. Unlike really mainstream products, such as Samsung’s Galaxy S series, which have flat panel displays and components used in many other smartphones, the small number of foldable devices sold each year have special parts.

“That means the highly specialized components needed … are still only produced in small quantities and are therefore likely still very expensive,” said Technalysis Research analyst Bob O’Donnell.

This leads to a chicken-and-egg problem that affects any specialty device: parts can’t get cheaper until they’re mass-produced, and there’s no point in making them on a large scale when consumers don’t get enough of them. buy expensive devices that they use. components. That’s why so few phone makers make foldables, including Apple, O’Donnell said.

“There’s no getting around the fact that the supply chain isn’t quite ready for an Apple-level product, and that’s part of the reason Apple hasn’t. [made a foldable] neither,” said O’Donnell.

Samsung shares the difference with the Z Flip 4, a folding clamshell that has half the footprint of a “flat” smartphone when closed, but unfolds to reveal an interior screen the size of a smartphone’s display. regular phone. Samsung sees the Z Flip 4 as an “entry-level model” that turns daring buyers into folding lifers, a ramp for consumers to eventually upgrade to the larger, more expensive Z Fold line.

Samsung says the Z Flip is the better-selling series, accounting for 70% of the company’s foldable devices that shipped, but both devices have different demographics. The Z Flip is stylish, but ultimately just a shrinkable version of a typical ‘flat’ smartphone, not a junior edition of the productivity-boosting Z Fold devices that unfold into tablet-sized displays.

More foldables are sold every year and IDC predicts shipments will grow to 25 million foldables by 2025. Whether that’s enough volume to enable cheaper foldables is hard to predict. In any case, Samsung has gotten creative with offering more value foldable devices.

Facebook network on the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4

Facebook on the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4.

Screenshot by CNET

Cheaper foldables through trade-in and carrier deals

The industry is working to make foldable things. You can get a Galaxy Z Fold 4 for less than $1,800 through Samsung’s generous trade-ins and various carrier deals. Samsung keeps its elite price tag, carriers get more customers signed up for their services, and customers get their hands on the next evolution in phones.

Samsung’s trade-in deals hit $1,000 off the list price of a Z Fold 4 if you send in your older Z Fold 3, Z Fold 2, or this year’s Galaxy S22 Ultra. But the trade-in values ​​are still quite generous for the original Z Fold or other flagship Samsung phones from the past few years. Apple’s most expensive phones also get a decent trade-in value, but you’ll hardly get anything for phones from Google, Motorola, LG, or OnePlus.

Carriers can also save you money on the Z Fold 4, with Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile offering several trade-in deals to lower the price by up to $1,000. Verizon is also offering $800 off a second Z Fold 4 after buying a first, should your household need two foldable devices.

The other option is to wait for Black Friday or the holidays, when Samsung can introduce new deals to discount its foldable products.

Just don’t hold your breath for Samsung to discount its most premium mobile device. Unlike the Z Flip 3, which got a $150 price reduction once its successor was unveiled this week, the Z Fold 3 will be the same $1,800 price on Samsung’s website that it had when it launched a year ago. With high parts prices, years of R&D to pay for itself, and a lack of competition, there’s not much pressure for Samsung to lower its prices.

Samsung is “a leader in this field right now and can afford to charge a premium before other Android players advance in this space, and maybe even Apple in a few years,” Popal said.

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