Foldables phones like Samsung’s Galaxy Z line, with flexible displays that fold out larger or fold in to shrink down, have long been touted as ideal devices for cord cutters looking to watch everything from TikTok videos to Stranger Things. But hesitancy to buy one of these flashy devices stem from everything including price to durability. Don’t forget, the original Fold had a well publicized faulty display right before it officially launched in 2019.
What a difference four years make.
Samsung’s Unpacked event is back once again, and with the Galaxy Z Fold 5 and Galaxy Z Flip 5, are looking to further drive foldables into the mainstream. A key feature is the larger outside “Flex WIndow” for the Flip 5, while the Z Fold 5’s 7.6-inch inner display allows for improved multitasking capabilities.
By introducing a fifth generation of foldables, Samsung has turned what was once a novelty into an annual, almost perfunctory, launch. While it’s not nearly as sexy or exciting as that original release, people are understanding that these phones aren’t just a gimmick. Bottom line: This is less flash and more substance. Between these phones and the Google Pixel Fold, released last month, foldables are finally hitting a level of mainstream understanding – even if not everyone is clamoring for one.
“Foldables are finally ready for prime time if you’ve got the cash, but that’s a big if for most people,” said Maribel Lopez, an analyst at Lopez Research.
While prices have come down, these aren’t cheap phones. The Flip 5 starts at $1,000, while the Fold 5 starts at $1,800.
Anecdotally, I’ve seen more and more of these phones out in the wild, used not just by tech enthusiasts. These are chefs, gym trainers and doting fathers and mothers. The numbers back up my observation. Research firm IDC is calling for the foldable phone market to increase this year by more than 50% over the 14.2 million units shipped in 2022. Samsung, unsurprisingly, dominates this market.
“Samsung has been investing in the foldables category longer, and more consistently, than anyone,” said Avi Greengart, an analyst at Techsponential. “The changes in the Galaxy Z Fold 5 and Galaxy Z Flip 5 are iterative, but that’s a good thing. Most regular consumers have never had a folding smartphone, and these are quite exciting.”
That’s not to say foldables will be everywhere. They represented just 1.2% of the market last year, according to IDC, and will hit 3.5% in 2027. So while you’ll be able to spot a few, droves of people aren’t rushing to buy them.
But those that do buy one, particularly the Z Fold 5, will be treated to a much larger screen that’s perfect for viewing the backlog of content we all have. While it’s great to sit back and watch the big screen TV, having one of these phones gives you a decent option on the go. It’s no coincidence that many of the people I saw with a foldable were watching videos.
Meanwhile, the Flip line, which is the typically better selling device, has improved its front display, allowing folks to keep it in its smaller, more compact form.
“Foldables bridge the gap between tablets and traditional smartphones for media consumption,” Lopez said. “In the fifth generation of these, we’ve plugged a lot of gaps such as better battery life and matching the camera technology of other flagship phones.
The Flip 5 unfolds to reveal a 6.7-inch full high-definition “plus” display with 120 hertz refresh rate and a resolution of 2640 x 1080. It features a 10 megapixel front-facing camera and a 12 megapixel ultrawide rear camera. It also boasts 8 GB of memory and starts at 256 GB of storage. It packs a 3,700 mAh battery.
The Fold 5 features a 7.6-inch QXGA-plus display with a 2176 x 1812 resolution and 120 hertz refresh rate. It features a 10MP “selfie” camera on the front, an under display 4 MP camera and a rear triple-camera system with a 12MP ultra wide lens, 50 MP wide-angle lens and 10 MP telephoto shooter with 3x zoom. It boasts 12 GB of RAM and starts at 256 GB of storage. It packs a 4,400 mAh dual battery.
While the two foldables were the stars of the Unpacked presentation, Samsung dropped a few more announcements. It showed off the Galaxy Watch 6 and Galaxy Watch 6 Classic, an upgrade with a rotating bezel. Samsung focused on the health applications of the two wearables, including sleep tracking and a feature to detect irregular heart rhythm. The Watch 6 starts at $330, while the Watch 6 Classic starts at $430.
Lastly, Samsung unveiled the Galaxy Tab S9 family of tablets, which all feature a 14.6-inch display. The Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra starts at $1,200, the S9+ starts at $1,000, the 5G-enabled version begins at $1,150, and the S9 begins at $800.