Samsung’s Galaxy Fold: Bright future or dead end?

Samsung finally announced it is shipping its Galaxy Fold, coming to AT&T and T-Mobile on April 26. Who will this device appeal to and will it be successful?

Samsung’s Galaxy Fold: Bright future or dead end?

With a starting list price of $1,980, the Samsung Galaxy Fold is no mass-market device in the sense of its more pocketbook-friendly (and larger volume) Galaxy S10 cousins. Some have said there is no market for this device given the price point. In my opinion, given the “status” this device brings to the owner as she pulls it from a bag or pocket, there will be plenty of buyers. (Remember when many said no one would buy a $1,000 smartphone?)

But what kind of buyers will find this device attractive? Certainly the “I have to be first” consumers will, as the bragging rights are very appealing. But I expect that a large portion of the devices will be sold to executives and business professionals (e.g., financial, consulting, legal, and healthcare), where the specific features of the phone (a truly compelling experience with the unfolded Infinity Flex Display screen size of 7.3 inches) make it dramatically easier to get the job done. And if it’s a business tool that’s increasing my productivity, I am going to be much less price-sensitive. But that’s not the only reason business users will find the Galaxy Fold attractive.

4 Galaxy Fold features that business users will love

Inside the Galaxy Fold are some features that a business user (and IT department) would love.

First, is the Samsung Knox security tools that protect this device, and the data on it, from getting hacked. (OK, nothing is perfect, but Knox goes a long way toward securing the device over traditional consumer-grade alternatives.) Indeed, Samsung Knox is probably the most secure phone technology you can get in a mass-market Android device. (Samsung is even extending Knox beyond its smartphones to other connected devices.) Many enterprises have standardized on this capability, in addition to Android Enterprise functionality for their Android users, as a way to keep from getting breached and avoiding the massive (potentially millions of dollars) cost of remediation and loss of business.

Next, the ability to actually multitask and do three things at once, with navigateable and resizable app windows, is compelling for many users. (We’ve been able to do this for years on our PCs but could never quite get the hang of it on smartphones, until now.) There are many examples of the compelling convenience of having more than one app live on our screens (e.g., having Chrome, Google Maps and Messages, or Camera, Messages, and Contacts open at the same time).

Even if you don’t need three apps running at once, the ability to rapidly and seamlessly transfer an app from the compact front screen when the phone is folded onto the large screen when unfolded lets you engage with the device as a standard user would on the smaller screen, but then rapidly expand to a full size screen for dense documents, complex diagrams, or the crowded user interfaces built into corporate apps.

And with 512 GB of storage standard and a fast Qualcomm Snapdragon 855, there is plenty of power to do compute and graphics for all but the most complex workloads. One downside: Should you run out of memory, there is no SD card slot to add more. But unless you’re doing tons of HD videos, it’s hard to envision running out. Some servers don’t have as much storage as this phone does.

And finally, the ability to have the Fold act as a gateway device by engaging the DeX capability, and having up to six multitasking apps open at once on a large format display and a full size keyboard, make it an attractive "one device for all – personal and work needs" device. We’ve talked about this for years, but it’s never been very practical. Unified workspaces (e.g., Citrix, VMware, Google, and Microsoft) that create an ability to “take it with me anywhere” are becoming very popular, and the Fold is a great enabler of this trend.

One feature missing in the Galaxy Fold

One useful feature missing from the Galaxy Fold is support for a pen, like the active S Pen for Galaxy Note and Tab devices. For a screen as large as the one on the Fold, it would be compelling to have apps I could interact with via pen input. No doubt this will be a feature of future models.

There is one other point that’s important to mention. Yes, this is a very high-end/high-priced device, but so were many other features on smartphones when they came to market (e.g., edge-to-edge displays, OLED, multi-cameras, assistants such as Siri and Bixby, biometrics, 4GLTE/GB LTE). I expect that in two to three years (maybe sooner), you’ll see smartphones with foldable displays in the mainstream (meaning they will cost $400 to $800). New technology always flows downhill as volumes increase and components get cheaper. It will happen in foldables, as well. In fact, I expect the foldable to become the new “phablet” in the not-too-distant future.

So, for those who think foldable devices is a niche market that will never take off, I say, unless Samsung and others, like Huawei, that are producing them get the technology wrong and the devices simply don’t work well or last very long, we are seeing the first instance of a future where a large display in a pocketable device becomes the norm for many users. You may not ever get the current Galaxy Fold, but you will probably be getting a foldable in the not-too-distant future.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.

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