OPINION: The time is now for Samsung’s foldable push after an impressive Galaxy Z Flip 4 and Fold 4 launch event. Apple needs a response because The Next Big Thing is already here.
For the first time in a long time, I came away from the bi-annual Samsung Unpacked event hugely impressed.
It was the kind of tight presentation we could really use more of. It hammered along at a breakneck pace and highlighted precisely why anyone tuning in should consider buying these products.
It didn’t get bogged down in spec talk, do-goodery or marketing guff, it showed people how they could upgrade the smartphone experience. It talked about how favourite apps and features are more useful and flexible. It showcased a way of doing things that just makes sense.
It was compelling. For the first time ever, Samsung sold me on those foldables. I found myself nodding away at the depiction of these real-world use cases thinking “yeah, I’d do that.”
The Galaxy Z Flip 4’s Flex Cam feature is a perfect example. Hell yeah, I’d sit the phone up on the table for a group shot, rather than finding something to perilously balance it against. Yes, I’d love to make use of the additional flexibility this offers in terms of shooting angles. Yes, I’d grip it like a camcorder for additional stability. Yes I’d be more inclined to watch longer videos on my phone if I don’t have to hold it, as is the case on Netflix with the Galaxy Z Fold 4.
Meta’s brief presentation (for once it was nice to hear from perennial doom merchant, Instagram boss Adam Mosseri) showcased a superior experience for video chat on WhatsApp and Messenger, and shooting hands-free Reels on Instagram. These are every day use cases that are now arguably better on a foldable.
I love the way the back cameras can be used for selfies on the Flip 4 and Fold 4, complete with a Cover Screen showing exactly what you’re capturing. No need to use the inferior smaller sensor to capture those precious memories. This is intuitive and, yes, a better experience.
Speaking of that Cover Screen on the Flip 4, it doubles up as a digital health tool, allowing your phone to take a backseat, while still enabling you to quickly handle essential notifications and use your digital wallet. With this there’s no more getting lost down a rabbit hole every time you pick up the phone to check a text.
It’s clear Samsung has put deep thought into this. It’s looked at how people use their phones and asked: “How can a foldable do this this better?” It isn’t inventing and forcing new use cases on us for which there is no demand, it is utilising the form factor in a way that improves what we’re already doing.
Take the TikTok experience on the Galaxy Z Fold 4 for example, with the chat on a smaller pane to the right of the video. It just makes sense. The Zoom Map view camera feature is another gorgeous little touch, where you can zoom in on an image without losing the overall frame that’s visible opposite.
The split-screen multitasking productivity tools, which Samsung pioneered with the Galaxy Note series are even better here, especially when considering the deep partnership with Microsoft Office and Google’s Android 12 and 13 enhancements for tablets and larger displays.
Your move, Apple
Sadly, I’m not going to buy either of these phones. I’m too embedded in the Apple ecosystem to switch now. However, for the first time in a while, I’m a little jealous.
Samsung looks ahead of the curve again. It has recaptured the momentum in smartphone innovation it had during the early days of the iPhone vs Galaxy rivalry, when the company would openly mock those lining up for the next iPhone when Samsung phones apparently had so many features Apple had yet to introduce.
Samsung has almost singlehandedly matured the foldable sector to make it mainstream ready, staying the course following a seriously rocky start that had me doubting whether its foldables would ever recover from some serious hardware flaws. Massive kudos to all involved.
Rumours of an iPhone Fold have been abundant in recent years with credible reporters predicting its arrival by the middle of this decade. Apple certainly has the patents to make this happen. However, it might want to shift that roadmap forward a little. Earlier this year, I argued the iPhone Fold would be ready when it’s ready. Now I’m changing my tune.
I’ve been covering this industry for 15 years now. I’ve seen enough to know when a shift change is happening and the status quo is coming to an end. Apple needs to respond because Samsung’s foldables have proved their worth, and are here to stay. The next big thing is already here.