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August 11, 2021
Samsung is doubling down on foldable computing smartphones with the introduction of its Galaxy Z Fold3 and Galaxy Z Flip3. The 5G-based foldables, launched Wednesday at the company’s fall Samsung Unpacked event, held virtually, will be available later this month.
Currently, dual-screen foldable phones are expensive, fragile and regarded as novelties, and aren’t easy to use for computing. Samsung was among the first to launch dual-screen devices with the Z Fold and Z Flip lines in 2019. The company rolled out the second versions last year.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3
Samsung believes it has addressed many of the shortcomings of earlier foldables by adding support for two new S Pens. According to Samsung, the new devices are more durable. They also allow for better multitasking and application support, and are slightly less expensive.
Because of those improvements and a decision not to introduce a new Galaxy Note this year, Samsung made the foldables the focus of this year’s fall phone lineup. Samsung is betting that the improvements it has made will accelerate demand for foldables.
“This is the new mainstream for smartphones — more accessible, more durable, and engineered for tailored seamless experiences of the future,” said TM Roh, president of Samsung’s mobile communications business.
Roh credited Samsung’s engineering efforts and work with Microsoft and Google, for the improvements in its foldable lineup. The new devices work better with Google Duo, Evernote and Microsoft Office apps, according to Hamshy Raveendran, Samsung’s head of go-to-market and strategic partnerships.
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“You can unfold your phone to experience a tablet-size screen, which is ideal when you want to open an Excel spreadsheet and PowerPoint deck side by side and drag and drop charts into your presentation,” said Raveendran said during a media briefing. “Or you can join a conference call on Teams, now optimized for flex mode. And you can jot down notes during that meeting in Microsoft To Do using our … S Pen designed for Z Fold 3 compatibility.”
Besides supporting two new S Pens that are more responsive, the foldables offer better application multitasking across the dual screens. Samsung claims it has improved the hinges, and the glass on the foldables’ main screens is 80% more durable. Samsung made the outer screens with the latest iteration of Corning Gorilla Glass.
The Z Fold3, with a 7.6-inch AMOLED display, is better for those wanting to use a foldable for business applications.
“The Galaxy Z Fold3 is an extremely capable productivity device, especially when paired with the new S-Pen for annotations or note-taking, and software like Microsoft Office which takes full advantage of the interior screen’s larger space,” said industry analyst Avi Greengart of Techsponential.
Despite the lower $1,800 starting price, Greengart warned that the Galaxy Z Fold3 is a relatively expensive device.
“Even with lower pricing than the Galaxy Z Fold2, and the fact that it costs less than many pro and extremely mobile laptops, I don’t expect the Galaxy Z Fold3 to be standard issue at most companies,” he added. “That said, mobile executives and productivity-seeking prosumers will definitely want one to get work done.”
The S Fold3 supports two new S Pens, a standard and pro version. Company officials said S Pens from earlier devices will not work on the S Fold3 because of the device’s internal spring added to act as a shock absorber that automatically reacting to pen pressure.
“The ability to support pen input really starts to make the company’s claims of it being a multimode device more tenable,” according to a LinkedIn post by industry analyst Bob O’Donnell of TECHnalysis Research. “Unfortunately, Samsung isn’t bundling a pen with the Fold3 and, because there’s no place to hold one, you’ll need to purchase a case designed to hold the phone and the pen if you want to use it all the time.”
The more affordable Galaxy Z Flip3, which starts at $999, is more in line with mainstream smartphones. Greengart said because both have Samsung’s Knox software, organizations that give employees access to email and other business services, can manage them securely.
As usual, wireless providers announced plans to carry the new devices. AT&T is offering business customers $600 off for the Z Flip3 and a $650 reduction for the Z Fold3 with two-year contracts. Verizon is offering customers who switch to the carrier up to $1,000 off the Z Series phones. Existing customers can get up to $500 off with a trade-in. And T-Mobile announced incentives, including up free Galaxy Z Flip3 phones or up to $1,000 off the Z Fold3 with new accounts or up to $500 for existing customers with trade-ins.
Jeffrey Schwartz has covered the IT industry for nearly three decades, most recently as editor-in-chief of Redmond magazine and executive editor of Redmond Channel Partner. Prior to that, he held various editing and writing roles at CommunicationsWeek, InternetWeek and VARBusiness (now CRN) magazines, among other publications.
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