Samsung has had a busy 2020 on the foldable phone front, but rumors for 2021 have already started picking up. Among the rumored foldable line-up is the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold Lite, the long-awaited "affordable" foldable handset.
Foldable phones are expensive, and even the cheaper Galaxy Z Flip will set you back close to $1,500. So an even cheaper model, which ideally doesn't skip out on great features, would be a welcome addition to Samsung's growing foldable line-up.
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So here come the rumors of a Galaxy Z Fold Lite, a foldable phone that will reportedly feature stripped-down specs in the name of delivering a more affordable device. That's been a big hurdle for foldable phones to overcome, as the least expensive models still start at around $1,400. The Galaxy Z Fold Lite may not boast all the features of those fancier foldables, but if it can get the price down by a few hundred dollars more, perhaps it could help foldable phones become more mainstream.
Or it could, if the Galaxy Z Fold Lite actually exists. Read on to find out more about this rumored phone, including its reported release date, price and specs as well as whether it may arrive in a different form with a completely different name.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold Lite latest news (Updated December 7)
- A report from The Elec claims that the Z Fold Lite will arrive in Q1 2021, with a 7-inch display and 4-inch exterior screen
- Samsung has a product event scheduled for August 5, and while the Galaxy Note 20 will be the main focus, some foldable phones could be announced there.
- An analyst report out of Korea suggests the Galaxy Fold Lite might not ship until 2021.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold Lite release date
While it was hoped the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold Lite would arrive before the end of 2020, possibly even alongside the Galaxy Z Fold 2, nothing ever materialised. That said the launch of the Z Fold 2 and Z Flip 5G meant late 2020 already had a lot of foldable action.
A researcher at You Jin Securities in South Korea previously forecasted we actually won't see the Galaxy Z Fold Lite this year, as Samsung focuses on other products. Turns out they were bang on, because we've heard that the Galaxy Z Fold Lite could ship in 2021, instead.
According to a report from The Elec the Z Fold Lite is due for a Q1 2021 launch, which means we should end up seeing it before the end of March next year. The only question is whether it'll launch alongside the Galaxy S21 range in mid-January, or later on in the year.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold Lite name
Right now, we're going with Galaxy Z Fold Lite as the name of this less expensive foldable phone because that's what rumors are suggesting. Now that Galaxy Z Fold 2 has firmly cemented "Galaxy Z" as Samsung's foldable range, we should be seeing all foldables carry that moniker from now on.
As for the Z Fold Lite, it's been said that this is a cheaper entry into the Z Fold range, and would naturally take that title as well. The only question is how Samsung is set to differentiate it from the rest of the Z Fold line-up. The company hasn't been consistent with the branding on its cheaper devices, which is why we ended up with the Galaxy S10e, Galaxy Note 10 Lite, and Galaxy S20 FE.
That said given the success of the Galaxy S20 FE, it wouldn't be surprising is Samsung capitalised on that by calling it the Galaxy Z Fold FE when it arrives.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold Lite price
Price is at the heart of the Galaxy Z Fold Lite rumors. The Galaxy Fold debuted last year with a price of $1,980. Even with the Galaxy Z Flip undercutting that price by $600, that's still a lot to pay for a phone. If foldable devices are to become more widely acceptable, the theory goes, then the price will need to come down even further.
And that's why a lot of Galaxy Z Fold Lite rumors focus heavily on just how much the phone will cost. When rumors of this device first started percolating in mid-May — back when the phone was being touted as the Galaxy Fold e — rumors suggested Samsung was looking to take $900 off the Galaxy Fold's original price.
A subsequent Galaxy Z Fold Lite rumor floated by phone leaker Max Weinbach puts the cost of the new foldable device at $1,099. That's still pricier than a lot of flagships, but it's cheaper than both the Galaxy S20 Plus and Galaxy S20 Ultra.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold Lite design
With Galaxy Z Fold Lite using the Galaxy Fold name, you'd expect a similar design — that is a phone with an exterior screen that opens up like a book to reveal a larger display inside.
Word is this will be the case, though we should expect a reduced 7-inch display on the inside and an even smaller 4-inch display on the outside.
Weinbach has previously suggested that the exterior display could shrink on the Galaxy Z Fold Lite — "more like the Z Flip," he tweeted. That said it seems a 4-inch outer display would be closer to the original Galaxy Fold, rather than the tiny 1.1-inch display on the Z Flip.
We've also heard about a different kind of exterior display, as per this Samsung patent spotted by Let's Go Digital. It shows off a foldable phone with an elongated notification panel on the outside. In other words, think of a display that's not too tall but stretches nearly the length of the phone's exterior to show you notifications and alerts without requiring you to open up the phone.
While this feature is almost guaranteed for the Galaxy Z Fold 3 or some future flagship foldable, it's not clear whether it would be available on the Z Fold Lite. But since the feature would have to debut on what's supposed to be the low-cost handset, it seems unlikely.
Weinbach expects the Galaxy Z Fold Lite to come in Mirror Black and Mirror Purple versions. Those are colors that Samsung introduced with the Galaxy Z Flip.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold Lite specs
Nearly everything we know about potential Galaxy Z Fold Lite specs comes from a series of Max Weinbach tweets. According to the phone leaker, the phone will feature 256GB of storage — the same capacity as the Z Flip, but half of the onboard storage in the original Galaxy Fold. You'll get a plastic display that lacks the Ultra Thin Glass layer that Samsung includes with the Galaxy Z Flip — an understandable omission if Samsung is truly looking to keep the cost of this phone down.
-Available internationally-No 5G support -Snapdragon 865-Built out of Aluminium and Glass on outside-$1099-Winner2This could change as this info tends to change quickly, especially when it's the first you're hearing about a device.May 12, 2020
In one of the more puzzling specs, Weinbach forecasts the Galaxy Z Fold Lite will feature a Snapdragon 865 system-on-chip but that it won't offer 5G connectivity. That runs counter to how Qualcomm sells the Snapdragon 865: while the chipset doesn't have a built-in 5G modem like the Snapdragon 765, it is paired with an X55 5G modem.
So in this scenario, Samsung would be paying up for a 5G-capable chip but not enabling the 5G features. That scenario seems dubious, especially when last year's Snapdragon 855 — found in both the Galaxy Fold and Galaxy Z Flip — can deliver lots of power without the extra 5G component.
There's no information on the Galaxy Z Fold Lite's cameras, so it's unclear if the lower-cost phone would repeat the original Fold's multitude of lenses — three rear cameras, a selfie cam when the phone is folded up, and an inside camera with time-of-flight sensor once you open the device. We also don't know whether Samsung would re-use the same 4,380 mAh battery in the Lite version of the Fold as it included in the original.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold Lite or Galaxy Fold Special Edition?
There's another possibility for the Galaxy Z Fold Lite — one where it's not a new phone at all. Instead, the Fold Lite would actually be a repackaged version of the Galaxy Fold that features the same specs as Samsung's original foldable.
That's the theory of Ross Young, a display analyst, who suggested in a since-deleted tweet that Samsung would look to clear out inventory of older Galaxy Fold models by rebranding them as the Galaxy Fold Special Edition. The Special Edition wouldn't offer any new features; rather, the idea would be that Samsung would clear out old Galaxy Fold inventory now that the Z Fold 2 is here and the Z Fold 3 is on the way.
The cost of the Galaxy Fold Special Edition certainly sounds appealing, with Young suggesting a $1,099 price. Samsung certainly wouldn't be the first phone maker to keep around an older model at a reduced price — Apple does it all the time with its iPhone launches and Samsung followed suit this spring when it cut prices on the Galaxy S10 lineup after the Galaxy S20's debut.
Still, if you're looking to get people more interested in foldable phones, coming out with a new model boasting new features seems like a sounder strategy than simply rebranding a promising-if-flawed phone that already exists. That, plus the disappearance of the original tweet about the Galaxy Fold Special Edition makes us think this is one rumor that won't pan out.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold Lite outlook
Right now, there's a lot that's up in the air about the Galaxy Z Fold Lite, including whether the phone is more than just a rumor. More concrete details will need to emerge about this alleged phone, if Samsung was planning on announcing it alongside the Galaxy S21 in January, you would think we would have heard more about it by now. But there's still time for more details to emerge before then.
That said, it's easy to understand the rationale behind a Galaxy Z Fold Lite, given how expensive current foldable devices are. Samsung has certainly indicated it's willing to try out different types of foldables, as evidenced by the Galaxy Z Flip's release. We'd bet that a lower-cost foldable device is certainly in the cards — the only question is when in 2021 it might appear.
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Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.