It doesn’t matter that it costs $1,980. The Samsung Galaxy Fold is going to be raging success. In fact, it already is.
Even if the new phone doesn’t sell as many units as Samsung expects — according to the Korean financial paper The Bell, the company is expected to produce only one million units — Samsung has generated an insane amount of buzz that was previously only reserved for Apple.
The Fold has opened newscasts and newspaper front pages all over the planet while taking over blogs, Reddit, and the twitterverse in real time. Thanks to this first-of-a-kind folding device (the Royole FlexPai is way too unwieldy and pedestrian to own that crown), Samsung has effectively turned into the new Apple. They are the innovators. They are ahead of the game.
But the success won’t stop with the news buzz. Its sudden virality, combined with its sleek design — this thing looks out of a Westworld episode — and its unreachable price, has served to catapult the Fold into an instant status symbol.
People will want this. People will aspire to have this, not only because it may be useful and cool on principle, but because they will want to be ahead of everyone else and show off. Just the same way consumers aspired to have the first iPhone and lined out of Apple stores to grab one.
Sure, there will not be lines for a $1,980 phone outside of Samsung stores. But there will be enough demand that the one million units will be sold out within a few weeks of launch.
Remember that the Fold is only $500 more expensive than a fully loaded iPhone XS Max, while it has features, specs, and a coolness factor that the XS can’t dream of matching. Same with every other high end $1,400 flagship — including Samsung own $1,600 one-terabyte Galaxy S10+. If you look at it from a purely technical point of view, the Fold is not that expensive for early adopters with deep pockets.
And let’s not forget about the nature of the beast: the screen size. If there’s something that history has told us is that people will want that larger screen.
Patrick Moorhead, Principal Analyst of tech market research firm Moor Insights & Strategy agrees: “Remember when smartphone displays were 3.5 inches?” Moorhead told Tom’s Guide over email, “now think about the 6-inch displays and how much more users do with their phones like emails, surfing the web, watching videos and playing games. The experience is just better with a larger, 7.3" display and the use cases presented were compelling.”
Indeed, this is where the Samsung Galaxy Fold shines. The available real estate combined with the native foldable support developed with Google is what makes it feel useful and attractive beyond its good external looks.
Of course, the Galaxy Fold is not perfect. It’s a first generation product, and there's a lot of unanswered questions. “Is it easy to hold? What is it like when it is fully open? Does the crease degrade the color over time?" said Ramon Lamas, mobile devices research director at IDC. "Before we crown this as a status symbol, let’s see if this can be used easily and on a regular basis over time.”
Maybe Lamas is right. But for the diehard phone addicts, the rich nerds, the oligarchs, and all of those early adopters who just want to have the latest and the coolest stuff, it still will be the phone to have.
“The Galaxy Fold is a brand statement from Samsung aimed at early adopters and technology enthusiasts," said Avi Greengart, founder and lead analyst at Techsponential. While it is priced extremely high for a phone, it is actually not nearly expensive as many luxury handbags, appliances, or vacations.
“It's all about your frame of reference,” said Greengart. “Will having a small tablet easily accessible make up for any usability and form factor issues? It's too early to tell, but I'm excited to get one in and find out.”
There are lot more than one million people that will want one of these (remember that Samsung is releasing this worldwide). The kind of people who actually buy $10,000 bags and $10,000 jackets. Heck — there will be enough luxury market for the Huawei, the Xiaomi, and the LG foldables coming out next week, too.
As Creatives Strategies’ analyst Carolina Milanesi told me via email, “early tech adopters and people who see it as a status symbol are certainly the key target. It was interesting that Samsung called it a luxury device several times in the presentation making it clear this is not for everybody.” Indeed, that’s the objective for this first wave of devices.
So yes. The Galaxy Fold will kill it. That’s my bet. An easy one. And in a couple years this form factor will have established itself as a new driver in the stagnant phone market.
Photo credits: Samsung
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Jesus Diaz founded the new Sploid for Gawker Media after seven years working at Gizmodo, where he helmed the lost-in-a-bar iPhone 4 story and wrote old angry man rants, among other things. He's a creative director, screenwriter, and producer at The Magic Sauce, and currently writes for Fast Company and Tom's Guide.