Samsung Aims to Introduce Affordable Foldable Phones to Challenge Apple’s iPhone Range

Samsung Electronics is considering adding an affordable option to its portfolio of foldable phones, in a move to hasten adoption of the novel form factor.

“We are trying to make a leap in our price positioning,” the chief of its mobile business, TM Roh, told Bloomberg News. “We are seriously considering the timing, but it is surely a difficult task.”

The world’s largest smartphone maker is in talks with supply partners to drive down the cost of manufacturing foldables without compromising key specs. Samsung was first among major phone makers to offer a foldable costing less than $1,000 (roughly Rs. 82,000) — and its $999 (roughly Rs. 81,000) Galaxy Z Flip has quickly become its most popular offering in the category.

Moving further down the price range would help Samsung’s foldables more directly challenge Apple’s mainstream iPhone range, which starts at $799 (roughly Rs. 65,000). The Suwon-based company has so far pitched foldables as premium and high-end devices, including by partnering with fashion brand Thom Browne to boost their perception as a luxury product.

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The broader smartphone market downturn over the past year and a half has not stinted the rise of foldables. Estimates for their growth in coming years vary widely: IDC forecasters expect close to 50 million foldables shipped in 2027, whereas Counterpoint Research puts that year’s figure at 100 million. Counterpoint’s assumptions include the release of a foldable iPhone within two years.

“We see 2025 as a possibility for the release of a foldable iPhone, which could provide another growth spurt for the segment,” said Jene Park, senior analyst at Counterpoint.

Samsung’s dual-track strategy of pushing its flagship foldables as premium products while driving down the cost at the entry level is aimed at securing its leading market share. Rival Android device makers out of China have all now introduced their own foldable offerings — though they have been largely limited to the domestic market so far.

Android maker Google has also gotten into the contest with its Pixel Fold device, albeit only in a handful of regions. Samsung remains the most global and widely available seller of foldable.

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The rising competition is evidence of foldables becoming mainstream, Roh said. Samsung will seek to maintain its lead by collaborating with software partners like Alphabet’s Google, Meta Platforms and Microsoft. It’s engaged in discussions with Google and Microsoft about collaboration on generative AI, the executive said, without elaborating further.

Samsung will continue efforts to expand its share in China, where it has a paltry 1 percent of the market, and lean on the appeal of its premium range to do it, Roh said.

© 2023 Bloomberg LP

Samsung launched the Galaxy Z Fold 5 and Galaxy Z Flip 5 alongside the Galaxy Tab S9 series and Galaxy Watch 6 series at its first Galaxy Unpacked event in South Korea. We discuss the company’s new devices and more on the latest episode of Orbital, the Gadgets 360 podcast. Orbital is available on Spotify, Gaana, JioSaavn, Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music and wherever you get your podcasts.
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