Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 6 FE is going to need a lot more than a cheap price

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

Rumors are heating up about the possibility of Samsung releasing a low-cost foldable phone later this year — tentatively dubbed the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 6 FE. While there are still a lot of unknowns, the latest rumors claim that the phone could cost as little as $800, which is half the price of the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5.

It’s a phone that’s sorely needed, given how expensive foldable phones are. While you may be able to get a foldable flip phone for as little as $699 these days, the book-style foldables remain out of reach of a lot of people because of how expensive they are. But unfortunately the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 6 FE is going to need to offer a lot more than a relatively low price tag to be one of the best phones you can buy.

$800 is still a serious amount of money

While an $800 foldable seems like a good deal in comparison to older foldables like the Galaxy Z Fold 5 or the OnePlus Open, it’s still a lot of money to spend on a phone. Think about the kind of phone you can pick up for $800 these days. 

You can get an iPhone 15, OnePlus 12 or even a Samsung Galaxy S24 for $799, while other great phones are available for less — like the $699 Google Pixel 8. While some of those phones aren’t top flagships, and do feature some compromises compared to their more expensive siblings, they are exceptional phones with a lot of great qualities. 

These are phones with great displays, strong cameras, solid performance and battery life, the list goes on. They’re very appealing, and perfect for the people who don’t want to spend an extra few hundred dollars for a top-of-the-line Pro or Ultra model.

The thing about foldables is that they also sacrifice things, only this time it’s in the name of design rather than cost-cutting. Rather than sporting a 200MP camera like the Galaxy S23 Ultra, the Galaxy Z Fold 5 is limited to just 50MP and it only comes with a single telephoto lens with a measly 3x optical zoom. 

Similarly, the battery is 600 mAh smaller than you’d find in a Galaxy S23 Ultra, lasting 10 hours and 55 minutes in our testing, and limits charging speeds to the same 25W as a standard Galaxy S24. 

In the grand scheme of things these are not particularly troublesome cutbacks to deal with. But it does show that foldables aren’t priced the way they are because they’re offering the best of the best. No, the Z Fold 5’s $1,799 starting price, which is $600 more than the S23 Ultra’s $1,199, is there simply because it’s a foldable phone. 

I’m not saying new and exciting technology shouldn’t come with a premium, but it’s such a massive price difference and you’re still not getting state-of-the-art features. And the problem is that scaling this expensive technology back, especially if Samsung really is planning to knock 50% off the price tag, is going to come with a lot of compromises.

The Galaxy Z Fold 6 FE will need to make up for its cutbacks 

If Samsung isn’t able to offer a $1,799 foldable with the same kind of hardware as a cheaper non-folding phone, then it does make me wonder just how much the Galaxy Z Fold 6 FE is going to have in terms of features. 

Right now it isn’t entirely clear what sort of trade-offs we will get, though one report claims that we’ll see those cutbacks affect a number of key areas — including the cameras, battery, display and processor. It’s also been claimed that the phone won’t have the necessary display components to support an S Pen, which will remove a bunch of the helpful foldable-exclusive features in the process.

The only elaboration we’ve heard right now is that the camera may be a “dual camera module” and that it will be similar to the “current generation." In other words two rear cameras with hardware pretty close to the Z Flip 5 or Z Fold 5 — minus the latter’s telephoto lens.

Currently a flagship foldable is beyond the means of a lot of people — and clearly the serious foldable fans are willing to pay a premium. Dropping the price to a more affordable (if you can call it that) level means there’s a much wider pool of customers to pull onboard the foldable hype train. And you’re going to need more than the simple “folding” gimmick to keep them happy.

After all, what qualifies as “cheap” for a foldable isn’t necessarily what most people would consider cheap. So why would you spend $800 on a foldable phone with sub-standard hardware? Especially when you can pick up a much better phone for the same price. Those phones may not be able to fold, but that hasn’t really been a problem so far.

The idea of a cheap foldable is only going to go so far, and Samsung is going to need some other hook to entice people into buying the Z Fold 6 FE in meaningful numbers. Because otherwise people are going to drop off the bandwagon faster than you can say “Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 6 FE”.

The only question is what that sort of hook might be, and the truth is I really don’t know. But considering how many cutbacks Samsung may have to make on the hardware side of things, I’d expect it’s going to have to be software-based.

Bottom line

So far foldable phones, or at least those with the book-style design, have remained pretty niche products — pricing out the majority of people. The Galaxy Z Fold 6 FE, or wherever it ends up being called, has a real opportunity to bring foldable phones to the masses. The problem is that while relatively low in price, it’s still going to a rather expensive phone overall.

The problem is that cutting the cost of a foldable is going to be pretty difficult, and that runs the risk of Samsung making pretty serious compromises to the hardware. And that could be a serious problem if people don’t get the level of quality and experience they expect from a typical $800 phone. Assuming the Z Fold 6 FE can’t match those expectations it’s going to need something other than the folding screen to bring people in.

Because, let’s be honest here, folding phones may still be pretty niche but they don’t have the same novelty they did four or five years ago. 

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Tom Pritchard
UK Phones Editor

Tom is the Tom's Guide's UK Phones Editor, tackling the latest smartphone news and vocally expressing his opinions about upcoming features or changes. It's long way from his days as editor of Gizmodo UK, when pretty much everything was on the table. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining about how terrible his Smart TV is.