Samsung Electronics unveiled its latest foldable 5G capable flagship as it surges ahead to maintain its market position in an increasingly competitive phone market.
The development marked Samsung’s second attempt at a folding phone, following a delayed rollout in 2019, as it fends off traditional rival in the premium smartphone market, which includes Apple Inc and Huawei.
While China’s Huawei has released folding phones in China, and Apple has yet to release a 5G iPhone.
Analysts see the folding smartphone as one targeting fashion-focused consumers, while the 5G capability gives Samsung technology bragging rights.
Samsung’s Galaxy Z Flip, with folding glass capability, looks like a large square when closed and expands to look like most smartphones. It will set you back by $1,380 and be available from Friday in purple, gold and black, said Samsung executives in San Francisco.
Samsung also announced unveiled the Galaxy S20 phone, starting at $999. It will be available in March and will have a 5G option.
“Everybody wants it to have 5G, but with the segment they’re targeting of style-conscious younger folks, right now I think they are going to be OK,” without 5G in the Z Flip, said Patrick Moorhead of Moor Insights & Strategy.
Samsung held the No. 1 spot overall in 2019, with a global market of 21.6%, according to IDC. It however lost that title to Apple in the December quarter, following the launch of more cost effective iPhone 11.
Samsung’s new S20 devices will come equipped with chips that can handle the multiple kinds of 5G networks being built out by different carriers, the first for a phone sold in the United States.
“It’s really about delivering the full potential of 5G,” said Cristiano Amon, president of Qualcomm Inc, which supplied the chips for many of devices.
Samsung also showed off two other Galaxy S phones which can shoot 8K video.
“The camera battles in smartphones are absolutely back,” said Bob O’Donnell of TECHnalysis Research.
“Foldables are expensive and very hard to manufacture. It will take time for foldables to become mass-market products,” said Neil Mawston, an analyst at Strategy Analytics, expecting a mass-market takeoff by 2022 or 2023. “For now, foldables are a super-premium product that can drive profits or a ‘halo effect’ for the Samsung brand.”
According to a source familiar with the matter at hand, Samsung expects sales of 5 million units this year, which amounts to less than 2% of Samsung’s total smartphone shipments in 2019.
While China’s coronavirus outbreak has weighed down the global supply chain and has disrupted smartphone production, Samsung is among the least affected since its main manufacturing base is in Vietnam, said analysts.