Samsung flips out with new foldable phones

The Samsung Galaxy Fold. Picture: Jennifer Dudley-Nicholson
The Samsung Galaxy Fold. Picture: Jennifer Dudley-Nicholson

The interest in emerging foldable and flip phones was subdued during the pandemic. The public had more pressing concerns. but now momentum is building afresh, with Samsung holding one of its “unpacked” events on August 11 to unveil new devices for the global market. A foldable and flip phone appear to be on the agenda.

Normally unpacked events are a lucky dip: Samsung keeps its offerings under wraps beforehand. But American blogger and phone leaker Evan Blass has spoiled the party with a series of images and GIFs on Twitter that totally give the game away.

Blass, a tech writer who suffers from multiple sclerosis, has been leaking details of unreleased phones and gadgets since 2014 and has obviously amassed an enormous array of manufacturer contacts from his native US and Taiwan. While many leaks of unannounced products come against the will of the hosting company, it is suspected other leaks may be tacitly approved or even aided as a PR exercise.

The foldable and flip phones that are previewed serve two markets. The Z Fold 3 opens like a book to transform what is a regular phone experience into a tablet experience. You get a bigger screen area for reading, browsing web pages, perusing photos and watching video.

Samsung’s quest to launch a folding phone began disastrously in 2019 with reports of phone hinges breaking, bulging screens and the top screen layer peeling in samples given to US journalists.

That’s two years ago, and hopefully teething issues have been ironed out since then.

Huawei has brought out its version of a folding phone, the Mate X, followed by the Mate X2. Royole released the FlexPai and FlexPai 2, and Xiaomi the Mi Mix Fold.

The Galaxy Fold and Xiaomi Mi Mix Fold differ from the Mate X and FlexPai models as the screen folds inward like a book, offering protection when not in use. There is a separate display on the outside for regular phone use. The Mate X and FlexPai/FlexPai 2 fold outwards and the screen on one side doubles as a regular phone screen.

Samsung brought out the Galaxy Z Fold 2 5G last year for $2000, which while expensive was $1000 less than version 1. The upcoming Z Fold 3 might attract a decent market if the price drops further.

Thinner panels, robust hinges, excellent cameras that work whether the screen is folded or not, 5G and the usual concerns about speed of operation will be important when final specs are announced.

The Galaxy Z Flip 3 is different. It doesn’t offer tablet browsing; instead the phone folds into two, and takes up half the room in your pocket, as did the original flip phones of 20 years ago. The difference in 2021 is that the screen itself folds.

Blass’s array of devices includes the Galaxy S21 FE, to be available in white, purple, black and yellow-grey. The FE stands for ‘‘fan edition’’. Samsung makes a judgment call about leaving out certain features and adding others based on what it thinks fans of the S21 want.

All will be revealed on August 11.