Galaxy Z Fold 6 FE — 3 things Samsung must get right with its cheaper foldable

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 in hand
(Image credit: Future)

A cheaper foldable phone from Samsung like the rumored Galaxy Z Fold 6 FE would fill the wishes of what many people have asked for since the first Galaxy Z Fold debuted five years ago. But depending on what Samsung scales back to drop the price of its new foldable, it could be a case of being careful what you ask for.

Because make no mistake — Samsung is going to have to make some changes to the Fold if it's going to deliver a version of this foldable priced somewhere in that rumored $800 to $1,000 range. The current Galaxy Z Fold 5 costs $1,799 after all, so that's a lot of trimming that needs to be done — and it might include features and specs that help the Fold rank so highly among the best foldable phones.

Samsung has been mum about the rumored Galaxy Z Fold 6 FE, going so far as to deny the existence of such a device at one point. But there are enough rumors out there to make us think that such a device will arrive later this year. And the people behind those rumors suggest that the battery, display and processor that make up the standard Galaxy Z Fold could be due for some downgrades.

If true, Samsung will have to proceed carefully and not sacrifice too much in the name of price. Fortunately, there are some pretty clear areas where Samsung can dial back some of the rumored features on the upcoming Galaxy Z Fold 6 without leaving a husk of a foldable phone in its place.

Samsung's FE phones — how the Galaxy S23 FE differs from Samsung's flagships

All the color options for the Samsung Galaxy S23 FE.

Samsung Galaxy S23 FE (Image credit: Future)

Before we dive into how I think Samsung should approach a Galaxy Z Fold 6 FE — or whatever pithier name Samsung hopefully comes up with — it's helpful to look at how the phone maker approaches other FE devices. Currently, Samsung makes a lower-cost FE version of its Galaxy S flagships, with the Galaxy S23 FE on sale right now and the Galaxy S24 FE rumored to be in the works for release later in 2024.

The differences between the Galaxy S23 FE and the Galaxy S23 phones that inspire it might give us an insight as to how Samsung will approach a lower-cost foldable. When it was introduced, the $599 Galaxy S23 FE cost $200 less than the Galaxy S23. (The pricing gap has since narrowed after the Galaxy S24 came out and Samsung dropped the price of the S23 to $699.) So where did Samsung find areas to scrimp and save while still presenting the S23 FE as a viable alternative to its flagships

Having reviewed both the Galaxy S23 and the S23 FE, there are three key differences. The Galaxy S23 FE runs on an older chipset compared to the S23 — Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 silicon instead of Snapdragon 8 Gen 2. The cameras aren't as powerful, with a lower resolution telephoto lens offered on the Galaxy S23 FE. Finally, Samsung uses cheaper materials on the FE, particularly when it comes to the protective glass on the front of the phone. (The display sizes are different, too, but that's not necessarily a downgrade for the larger Galaxy S23 FE. And I'm not sure it's going to be particularly relevant to cost-cutting for Samsung's foldables.)

Looking at some of those changes, you can see how they would apply to a Galaxy Z Fold 6 FE. You could scale back the cameras for the lower-cost foldable, without hearing too many complaints. Heck, you could even drop the telephoto lens completely, although I think that might be a tougher sacrifice to make. The FE's chipset can be a downgrade, too, and with the Galaxy Z Fold 6 likely to feature a Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 system-on-chip, Samsung will have a lot of still-powerful chipsets to pick from.

Galaxy Z Fold 6 FE — what Samsung needs to keep in mind

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 Flex mode video call

(Image credit: Future)

But there are some downgrades Samsung might be tempted to make for a lower cost foldable that it should absolutely avoid if it wants the Galaxy Z Fold 6 FE to be a success. Here are the three things Samsung needs to remember to do.

Emphasize durability

Samsung will naturally be inclined to choose less expensive materials for its lower-cost foldable. If there's a way to scale that back without compromising on durability, then fine. But even for a cheap foldable, durability is key.

Remember, that the Galaxy Z Fold 6 FE will be the introduction to foldables for most of the people buying that phone. If you want them to stick with the foldable design for future phone purchases, you better do what you can to make sure that the Galaxy Z Fold 6 FE doesn't fall apart when it's put through everyday use.

For that reason, I think using a less durable version of Gorilla Glass as Samsung did with the Galaxy S23 FE would be a mistake on a foldable FE phone. You want that display to be as durable as possible so that it can withstand repeated openings and closings. 

Don't skimp on battery life

One of the rumored downgrades for the Galaxy Z Fold 6 FE involves "lower battery specifications." Presumably, that means a smaller power pack than the 4,400 mAh cell inside the Galaxy Z Fold 5. I hope this rumor isn't true, though, as the last thing Samsung should be doing is giving first-time foldable buyers a phone that can't get through the day on a charge.

Foldables typically struggle with battery life, as keeping a larger screen powered up can drain power more quickly — and that's before we talk about the cover display on the outside of the phone. The Galaxy Z Fold 5 managed to buck that trend beating the average time for smartphones that go through our battery test by an hour. It would be a shame to see the Galaxy Z Fold 6 FE take a step back from that impressive result.

It would also be unnecessary, one would think. Look at our best phone battery life list, and while you'll see plenty of premium flagship devices lasting a long time on a charge, there are plenty of budget devices to be found, too. Low-cost phones don't necessarily have to sacrifice on battery size, and I hope that's a lesson that registers with Samsung as it puts together the Galaxy Z Fold 6 FE.

Don't forget about AI features

Snapdragon 8s Gen 3

(Image credit: Qualcomm)

Galaxy AI capabilities have been one of the best additions to the Galaxy S24 lineup, and you'd imagine that will continue with the Galaxy Z Fold 6 when that foldable flagship arrives. I hope that artificial intelligence is on full display with the FE version of that foldable, too, and I think there's a way for Samsung to do that while still keeping its costs down.

Earlier this week, Qualcomm showed off a new entry to its Snapdragon 8 family of chipsets — the Snapdragon 8s Gen 3. This new silicon doesn't quite have the power of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 Samsung's been using in its flagship phones this year, though it is more powerful than the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2. More to the point, Qualcomm designed the Snapdragon 8s Gen 3 specifically to support AI capabilities. So, in theory, Samsung could opt for this less expensive chipset without sacrificing on-device AI.

Galaxy Z Fold 6 FE outlook

There are other rumored changes to Samsung's foldable that sound perfectly reasonable if the company is looking to lower the cost of its phone. For example, the Galaxy Z Fold 6 FE may not support the S Pen, as it will cost less to remove the digitizer display layer from that phone's screen. That's a tough loss, but a reasonable trade-off if it helps drop the price below $1,000.

But durability, battery life and AI features don't fall into that category. They're essential parts of the foldable experience, and Samsung would do well to make sure they're included with the Galaxy Z Fold 6 FE if it's truly looking to broaden the audience for foldable phones.

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Philip Michaels

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.