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Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 launch even more important than iPhone 13 — here's why

Galaxy Z Flip
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 on paper looks like just another sequel, and it clearly won't be as powerful as the rumored Galaxy Z Fold 3. And yet the Z Flip 3 should be a much bigger deal for Samsung.

In fact, the new Z Flip’s fate is arguably even more important than the upcoming iPhone 13 because of what‘s at stake — both for Samsung and for the entire foldable phone category.

To say that there's a lot riding on the Galaxy Z Flip 3 launch would be a huge understatement. And Samsung could really use a hit right now based on the reported struggles the company is facing with the Galaxy S21 series.

Just this week Counterpoint Research reported that Xiaomi overtook Samsung to become the world's biggest smartphone vendor for the first time. Xiaomi was in first with 17.1%, Samsung second with 15.7% and Apple in third with 14.3%.

Meanwhile, according to a report in Korean publication The Elec, Samsung is extending a management review of its mobile business in response to alarmingly low sales of the Galaxy S21 series, which is said to have sold only 13.5 million units during the first half of the year. Compare that to the mid-20 million units for the Galaxy S20 and over 30 million Galaxy S units prior to that. 

At a time Samsung is positioning foldable phones as the future, it simply can't afford for the Z Flip 3 to flop.

This is being labeled as a special review, which is "done without warning when the top leadership considers there is a problem with a particular business unit."

With the Samsung Unpacked 2021 event coming up August 11, there's a lot riding on the success or failure of the the Galaxy Z Flip 3, which is being positioned as the more mainstream and affordable foldable phone. In fact, reports point to a sizable price cut for the Flip, and one earlier leak said the Flip 3 could be as low as $999

The Galaxy Z Flip 3 is also rumored to offer a larger external display and a more durable design that’s water resistant and more apps that can take advantage of Flex mode.

At a time Samsung is positioning foldable phones as the future, it simply can't afford for the Z Flip 3 to flop. If consumers decide they simply don't want a clamshell foldable Samsung may have to rethink its strategy for the entire category. 

Meanwhile, Apple is reportedly ramping up production for the iPhone 13 and is said to be anticipating even more demand than with the iPhone 12. According to a previous Bloomberg report, Apple is producing 90 million iPhone 13 units through the end of the year, which would be a 20% increase over 2020. 

If you look at the actual rumors, though, it's easy to see why some are calling the iPhone 13 the iPhone 12s. The design is expected to be largely the same, save for a smaller notch. And it appears most of the upgrades will be on the inside, from a faster and more efficient A15 Bionic chip to a possible new portrait video mode and astrophotography capabilities. 

The iPhone 13 Pro series looks like a bigger deal, as the Pro and Pro Max are both tipped to get 120Hz displays with an always-on mode.

Yet even with all of the iPhone 13 hype, Apple seems better positioned to weather a lackluster reception than Samsung is. Apple's latest financial results show that practically every area of its business is humming along, with iPhone revenue up 65.5% year over year, services up 26.7%, Macs up 70% and iPads up 78.9%.

With the Galaxy Z Flip 3, Samsung needs to start proving that all of the money it has been pouring into foldables has been building towards something and not just another novelty. 

In other words, at a time the Galaxy S21 appears to be struggling. Samsung can't see the Galaxy Z Flip 3 get ignored by shoppers, even if a more powerful Galaxy S22 is on the way early next year. Otherwise, Samsung may have to fold on its foldable push and move on to something else. 

Mark Spoonauer

Mark Spoonauer is the global editor in chief of Tom's Guide and has covered technology for nearly 20 years. In addition to overseeing the direction of Tom's Guide, Mark specializes in covering all things mobile, having reviewed dozens of smartphones and other gadgets. He has spoken at key industry events and appears regularly on TV to discuss the latest trends. Mark was previously editor in chief of Laptop Mag, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc. Follow him on Twitter at @mspoonauer.