- Samsung showed off its folding smartphone, the Galaxy Fold, onstage at its Unpacked event on Wednesday.
- The Fold will cost almost $AU3,000 and arrives in the US in April and in Europe in May.
- Despite the launch being just two months away, Samsung hasn’t allowed the press or analysts to see the Galaxy Fold up close.
- That suggests ongoing tweaks to the design and, maybe, a conviction that almost no one will buy it.
Samsung’s annual “Unpacked” events for its flagship phones are always a hoop-la, but the pinnacle this year had to be its unveiling of the Galaxy Fold folding smartphone.
Intended to be a major iteration on a form factor that hasn’t changed in years, the Galaxy Fold is a 4.6-inch phone that opens up to become a 7.3-inch tablet, and which can run multiple apps simultaneously.
In keeping with its purported status as the next major innovation in smartphones, the Fold comes with a whopping price tag: $US1,980 (almost $AU3,000) in the US. It will arrive in the US on April 26, and on May 3 in Europe.
The Fold launches at a time when it’s difficult to get excited about smartphones. Much of the current interesting innovation lies in the camera, with triple and quad cameras now the norm on phones. But the overall form factor of the smartphone hasn’t changed in years, with most high-end devices looking like sleek, tall rectangles.
With all of this in mind, it is extremely strange that the Fold, billed as a major design innovation, was not available for public viewing or handling at Samsung’s Unpacked event on Wednesday.
Journalist and analysts attending Unpacked in London and the US saw onstage demos of the Fold but, during the usual hands-on time with new Samsung devices after the event, the folding phone was nowhere to be seen. All the media saw was Samsung’s new flagship Galaxy S10, the S10E, and S10+, all of which launch in Europe in March.
— Francisco Jeronimo (@fjeronimo) February 20, 2019
A Samsung rep told Business Insider that this is because the Galaxy Fold was “coming a little bit later.” And that’s all the explanation that was given. We’ve asked Samsung for additional comment.
It isn’t a great sign that Samsung is unwilling to let analysts, press, and bloggers poke and prod the Fold only two months before its launch date, given its price tag. It wasn’t so long ago that consumers and journalists were horrified by Apple charging $US1,000 for the iPhone X, heralding a new wave of ultra-expensive phones.
Gizmodo speculates that Samsung isn’t convinced the public will like the folding phone design, noting that whatever the Fold ends up looking like, it will be much chunkier than most phones people are used to. Consider how thick two iPhones, or two Galaxy devices, are when stacked on top of each other. Gizmodo noted that Samsung isn’t answering questions about how thick the device is.
Another possibility is that Samsung knows that very few people will actually buy the Galaxy Fold compared to the new flagship S10 devices.
The percentage of people who are willing to buy what is effectively a $US2,000 prototype is likely to be small. The Fold is a wildcard, designed to kickstart consumer excitement around smartphones again. It’s more of a statement about Samsung’s capabilities and vision, perhaps, than answering an urgent consumer need. For now, Samsung’s hype around the Fold is outweighing the substance.
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