Samsung’s foldable Galaxy Z series is just getting started, but within the short period the series has been around, the company has made plausible advances. Unsurprisingly, the company’s foldable phones are some of the best on the market.
Let’s take a look at the beginnings of Samsung’s foldable phones, and what changes they’ve gone through over the years up to this day.
2019: Samsung Debuts Its First Foldable Phone, the Galaxy Fold
Samsung launched its first foldable smartphone, the Galaxy Fold, in 2019, expanding its premium line in addition to the long-running Galaxy S series and the discontinued Galaxy Note series. However, the Galaxy Fold wasn’t the first smartphone with a foldable screen. That title goes to the Royole FlexPai, made by a less-known Chinese company Royole, unveiled in October 2018.
As Samsung’s first foldable phone, the device had a disastrous beginning. Days after its February 2019 launch, Galaxy Fold review units faced a wide range of problems that forced the company to recall all of them. Because of the issues, Samsung had to postpone shipping to look into the Galaxy Fold’s problems. It was only later in July 2019 that the company finally figured it out and pinned a new launch date in September 2019.
The first Galaxy Fold had a 7.5-inch inner AMOLED display that can fold in a book-style manner, plus a secondary 4.6-inch 720p panel on the outside for easy tasks like chatting, browsing, making calls, and catching up with social media updates. With an asking price of $1980, the Galaxy Fold wasn’t cheap.
Besides the folding chops, it offered flagship-grade specs under the hood like 512GB UFS 3.0 storage, 12GB RAM, Qualcomm’s flagship Snapdragon 855 processor, 15W wired and wireless charging, and a capable camera system, identical to the company’s then-flagship Galaxy S10+.
2020: Major Transitions
After the mess that was the 2019 Galaxy Fold launch, Samsung did lots of heavy-lifting in the background from that point. In 2020, the company launched the second generation Galaxy Fold, the most significant upgrade to the series to date.
The second-gen foldable phone also saw Samsung revise its foldable naming scheme, and introduce the Galaxy Z series. Using the new scheme, the second-gen Galaxy Fold was named the Galaxy Z Fold 2.
For the Galaxy Z Fold 2, Samsung’s primary focus went on making the device more robust. The hinge was sturdy (to ensure the company didn’t face another PR disaster) and could stand at any angle. Samsung also refined the design, with the exterior receiving a modern look similar to the Galaxy Note 20 series that launched the same year.
The company swapped out the 7.3- and 4.6-inch inner and cover panels on the predecessor for larger 7.6- and 6.2-inch panels, respectively. To wrap it off, it made the usual upgrades to the internals to make it on par with flagship-grade smartphones, such as bumping up the fast charging speeds, beefing up the battery, upgrading the processor, and more.
The Galaxy Z Fold 2 wasn’t the only foldable from Samsung in 2020, though. The company also unveiled the clamshell Galaxy Z Flip under the umbrella of Galaxy Z series branding. The first Galaxy Z Flip had a 6.7-inch FHD+ AMOLED display on the inside and a smaller 1.1-inch panel on the outside for keeping up with notifications.
Like the Galaxy Z Fold 2, the Snapdragon 865 5G powered the Z Flip running in tow with 8GB of memory and 256GB storage.
The idea behind the Z Flip series was to introduce a normal-size smartphone that could fold in half, unlike the unconventional Z Fold range, plus it provided a lower entry point in terms of price. The Galaxy Z Fold 2 and Z Flip launched at $2000 and $1450, respectively.
2021 to 2022: Refinement
Following the solid foundations set in the previous year, Samsung’s foldable phones had fully matured, and the company didn’t have anything game-changing to reveal at its launch event in 2021. It just picked up from where it left by refining the Galaxy Z Fold 2 and Z Flip’s successors.
One major thing to note is the company never launched a Z Flip 2—the successor to the original Z Flip is the Z Flip 3, which was to help reduce confusion by bringing the version number into line with the Fold.
For the Galaxy Z Flip series, the Flip 3 maintained the dual 12MP camera array but placed them in a vertical module. The 10MP selfie camera and the main 6.7-inch panel stayed intact. But Samsung bumped the outer one to 1.9-inches. Other areas like the exterior also saw slight upgrades, while under the hood, nothing changed much except the processor upgrade to Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 888.
Moving to the Galaxy Z Fold 3, the same refinement theme was mainly maintained, with most critical features staying the same or receiving a minor upgrade. But besides the refinement, Samsung officially added stylus support, which was a big deal for its Z Fold series.
Another small but welcome change that Samsung brought with the launch of the Galaxy Z Flip 3 and Z Fold 3 was support for IPX8 water resistance, a first for its foldable smartphones. Also, the duo received a new Armor aluminum frame on the exterior and Gorilla Glass Victus atop the display to help improve drop and scratch resistance.
A year later, in 2022, Samsung unveiled the more refined Galaxy Z Fold 4 and Flip 4. The Z Flip 4 looks like a typical slab smartphone at just 0.27 inches thick when unfolded, making it thinner than Samsung’s flagship Galaxy S22 series.
On the other hand, the Galaxy Fold 4 is more compact and introduces a higher 1TB storage option, faster charging, and slight camera upgrades. To top it off, it runs Google’s big screen-focussed Android 12L to improve the software experience.
What Does the Future Hold for Samsung’s Foldable Phones?
According to Samsung, more than 70% of its foldable sales came from the clamshell Z Flip series in 2021. Perhaps that could indicate that consumers want to maintain their typical smartphone form factor and still gain the folding experience on top. With over 10 million foldable phones sold in 2021, Samsung’s Z series has a bright future.
Unlike at the beginning, the series is more refined and robust, which helps build consumer confidence. Hopefully, the production cost for foldable smartphones will reduce in the future to help reduce the retail price. With an affordable price tag, more consumers can jump on board, and Samsung’s foldable phones will truly start to take off.