Samsung on Wednesday (Feb. 20) launched its Galaxy Fold, a device designed to act as a smartphone or small tablet depending on consumer need. The phone’s release comes at a tough time for smartphone makers, which are facing increasing challenges in getting consumers to upgrade their devices.
According to Samsung, the “Galaxy Fold opens smoothly and naturally, like a book, and closes flat and compact with a satisfying click.” Consumers can slip the Galaxy Fold out of their pockets “for one-handed calls, texts and more, and open for endless multitasking and higher-quality viewing on our largest mobile display for presentations, digital magazines, movies and AR content.”
Foldable phones are among the freshest trends in the smartphone industry, as demonstrated at the 2019 CES show earlier this year. Last year in California, Samsung gave a first look at its foldable phone, which has a screen similar to a small tablet. The electronics company also rolled out flexible mobile screen technology for its foldable phones.
At the time, Lopez Research Analyst Maribel Lopez predicted the product would be expensive over the short haul: “We’re talking about brand-new materials that have been made for this, and also a new manufacturing process,” she told Reuters.
The Galaxy Fold launch — along with the debut of associated, upgraded Samsung wearables such as Galaxy watches, fitness bands and ear buds — comes amid a general slowdown for mobile devices. In January, Samsung’s Q4 results showed a 10 percent year-over-year revenue decline, along with an 11 percent drop in sales tied to mobile operations. The firm pointed to a “sluggish” smartphone market, coming right into a seasonal slowdown.
Separately, Apple reported that its March quarter results would be lower than some had expected, amid the slowdown in China. Earlier in February, Apple reported a Q4 decline of 20 percent for iPhone shipments in China. The smartphone market in China reportedly contracted 9.7 percent in the last three months of 2018, but the dip at Apple was more pronounced. The price tag of Apple’s latest iPhones, combined with an economic slowdown and extending smartphone replacement cycles, were named by IDC as the culprits behind the dive in sales for the Cupertino, California handset maker.
“The domestic smartphone market environment in 2019 doesn’t look very optimistic,” IDC Senior Analyst Wang Xi said in the report. “5G phones will still only comprise a very small portion of the overall market. We’ve a long way to go before they become mainstream.”
According to Samsung, the Galaxy Ford “will be available in the U.S. through AT&T and T-Mobile in the second quarter of 2019. Suggested retail price for Galaxy Fold in the U.S. starts at $1,980.” The number of consumers who buy those new phones will help clarify how healthy the global smartphone market will be over the rest of 2019.