Samsung’s $1,800 Galaxy Z Fold 4 seems out of reach – and that’s the point

At its Unpacked event on Wednesday, Samsung unveiled its new Galaxy Z Fold 4 flagship phone, which brought better multitasking software, a slimmer design and a more durable body. But one thing that remains unchanged is the eye-popping price of $1,800 – an amount few consumers can stomach. But that exclusivity is exactly why the Fold 4 exists.

It might seem disconcerting to hold the Z Fold 4 at around twice the price of other high-end phones 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 season. With Samsung holding down the price of the Z Fold 4, it’s clear the company is content to keep it a niche device available only to deep-pocketed tech enthusiasts.

The Z Fold 4 sits at the top of a stratum in which it has no real rivals. It’s basically a Ferrari among Mercedes and BMW. Creating this level of exclusivity is absolutely essential, providing Samsung with an exciting and ambitious product that is generating buzz and interest across the range. Knocking a few hundred dollars off its price won’t make any difference, said Nabila Popal, research director at IDC.

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

This dynamic, which goes against the idea that a cheap foldable can stimulate interest in the category, is one of the difficulties that this whole area is facing. Foldables occupy an exciting niche in the phone industry, which has seen an endless parade of slabs of metal and dull glass for over a decade. But the high price keeps them from really popping.

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

Samsung hopes the dynamic design of the Z Fold 4 – which is always impressive in person – will give the company a head start at Apple’s event next month and generate excitement for foldables in general.

Samsung is counting on the Z Flip series to sell the vibe from foldables, to transitional phones that change shape. And Samsung has some work to do, as they’re still rare in the wild, with research firm IDC estimating that just over 7 million foldables were shipped in 2021, compared to 1.3 billion smartphones sold the year. last.

From a market perspective, the small volume the Z Fold 4 might get could help Samsung reclaim some of the global premium phone share, as Apple sells seven out of 10 Premium phones $800+ worldwide.

Screenshot by CNET

No price drop while parts are expensive

Although price cuts would help Samsung make its foldable phones more mainstream, the company may have no choice but to keep its prices static. Unlike truly mainstream products, like Samsung’s Galaxy S series, which have flat screens and components used in many other smartphones, the small volume of foldables sold each year have specialized parts.

“This means that the very specialized components required … are still only produced in small quantities and are therefore likely still very expensive,” said Bob O’Donnell, an analyst at Technalysis Research.

This leads to a chicken-and-egg problem that plagues every specialized device: parts can’t get cheaper until they’re made on a large scale, and there’s no point in making them on a large scale when the consumers are buying too few expensive appliances using these parts. That’s why so few phone makers make foldable phones, including Apple, O’Donnell said.

“We can’t really ignore the fact that the supply chain isn’t really ready for an Apple-level product, and that’s part of the reason why Apple hasn’t [made a foldable] either,” O’Donnell said.

Samsung splits the difference with the Z Flip 4, a foldable clamshell that has half the footprint of a “flat” smartphone when closed, but folds out to show an interior screen as big as the n screen. any ordinary phone. Samsung sees the Z Flip 4 as an “entry device” that turns bold buyers into foldable lifers, an on-ramp for consumers to eventually upgrade to the larger and more expensive Z Fold lineup.

Samsung says the Z Flip is the best-selling series, accounting for 70% of foldables the company ships, but the two devices cater to different demographics. The Z Flip is sleek but ultimately just a retractable version of a typical ‘flat’ smartphone, not a junior edition of the productivity-enhancing Z Fold devices that fold out into tablet-sized screens.

More foldables are being sold every year, and IDC predicts that shipments will reach 25 million foldables in 2025. It’s hard to predict whether that volume is enough to enable cheaper foldables. Samsung has at least gotten creative in offering foldables with more value.

Facebook network on the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4

Facebook on the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4.

Screenshot by CNET

Cheaper foldables thanks to exchanges and agreements with carriers

The industry is striving to make foldables a thing. You can get a Galaxy Z Fold 4 for less than $1,800 thanks to Samsung’s generous trade-in values ​​and various carrier offers. Samsung keeps its elite price, carriers get more customers connected to their services, and customers get their hands on the next evolution of phones.

Samsung’s trade-in offers slash $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 trade-in values ​​are still quite generous for the original Z Fold or other flagship Samsung phones from recent years. Apple’s more expensive phones also have decent trade-in value, but you’ll get next to nothing 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 various trade-in offers to lower the price by up to $1,000. Verizon is also offering $800 off a second Z Fold 4 after buying a first, if your household needs two foldables.

The other option is to wait until Black Friday or the holiday season, when Samsung might introduce new deals to discount its foldables.

Don’t hold your breath for Samsung to hand over its most premium mobile device. Unlike the Z Flip 3, which got a price drop of $150 once its successor was revealed this week, the Z Fold 3 has the same $1,800 price tag on Samsung’s website that it had when it launched a year ago. With high parts prices, years of R&D to recover from, and a lack of competition, there’s not much pressure for Samsung to lower its prices.

Samsung is “leading in this space at the moment and can afford to charge a premium before other Android gamers jump into this space, and maybe even Apple in a few years,” Popal said.

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