Samsung has done what a year ago would have almost seemed impossible: The South Korean tech giant has managed to make all the $1,000 smartphones on the market sound cheap. Well, almost.
That’s because the new Galaxy Fold foldable device costs roughly twice as much as those other handsets, and we’re talking about the price of the “entry” 4G LTE version. You may have to take out a mortgage to afford the 5G model whose price has not yet been announced.
In what is arguably the biggest understatement ever applied to a smartphone, Samsung executive Justin Denison labeled the Galaxy Fold a “luxury” device.
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Actually, it might be shortchanging the Fold to pigeonhole it as a smartphone. Yes, in its folded form it functions as one, with a 4.6-inch display that should let you do all the usual things you do on an Android phone.
Though when you unfold it – an action made possible through a hidden, interlocking hinge system – it is converted into a 7.3-inch tablet with enough screen real estate to display and use three apps at once.
No, this isn’t the flip phone of yesteryear.
Available April 26, in four color options – black, green, silver and blue – the Fold has six cameras and comes with 512 GB of storage and 12GB of RAM. It’s got two separate built-in batteries. And onstage at its Galaxy Unpacked press event in San Francisco, Samsung demonstrated how apps such as Netflix or Google Maps viewed in “phone mode” can be expanded to take advantage of the larger tablet display.
Judging how seamless all this turns out to be comes later, when we get our hands on the device and put it through its proper testing.
It’s not too soon, though, to raise the question that has to be on most readers’ minds: Is Samsung going to get any of you to come into the fold, given Galaxy Fold’s sticker shock?
Prior to Samsung’s formal announcement of the Fold itself but with rumors floating around that some sort of foldable device was in the offing, USA TODAY, via SurveyMonkey Audience, asked smartphone buyers which features would get them excited about buying a new phone. Only 19 percent of those with an Android device said a flexible or foldable design would fill the bill.
Meanwhile, in the same survey, only 3 percent of buyers said they were willing to spend more than $1,000 on any new smartphone. So you can only presume that puny number will get even smaller.
That may be beside the point, though. For one thing, many of us have pointed to smartphone innovation as having hit a wall these past several years. So whatever you end up thinking about the Fold, you can’t say that it isn’t different or doesn’t represent change.
And this is just the start of it. Other foldable phones of one type or another are believed to be coming along from LG, Lenovo, Xiaomi and Huawei.
Moreover, while you can’t fathom that this first Samsung Fold device will become a mainstream blockbuster, what will be telling, over time, is the reception it gets among affluent early adopters who do go out and buy the thing. (Yeah, you could see some people buying it as a status symbol.) If that reaction is positive and Samsung ultimately delivers a Galaxy Fold 2 or Fold 3, how expensive will those be? They’re unlikely to be cheap either. But they ought to be at least closer in line with what some of you might be willing to pay.
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