Will Samsung launch an affordable Galaxy Z Flip in 2021?

Looks like Samsung’s next-generation foldable smartphone – the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 could lose its status of being an ultra-premium flagship. Thanks to a recent report by the good folks over at popular Samsung-centric Dutch website Galaxy Club, we are given to understand that the next-gen flip phone from the company could get the model number SM-720F.

The website further decrypted the model number and have deduced that this handset might end up being called the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 and that it is likely to only sport a 4G LTE modem. With 5G support being defacto on all flagships from 2020 and beyond, chances are high we are indeed looking at a ‘mid-range’ Galaxy Flip 3.

For those unaware, the “F” at the end of the name usually indicates that it is an international model, more precisely intended for Europe. That being said, this is of little importance because unlike most Galaxy S and Note devices, Samsung’s Z Fold and Z Flip are equipped with a Snapdragon SoC from Qualcomm and not Exynos, even in Europe.

But the presence of this famous “F” would also allow, according to Galaxy Club and all the tech sites that have picked up the information, to affirm that the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 would not support 5G. The reason? All 5G smartphones from Samsung, so far had the letter ‘B’ at the end of their name.

A mid-range Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3, really?

Personally, I remain slightly doubtful about the possibility of the Galaxy Z Flip 3 ending up as a mid-ranger. What could happen is that Samsung could offer a cheaper, affordable version of the Flip 3 minus 5G support (and a few other things) for a lower price tag. It will be sold alongside the more expensive, premium variant. Samsung is already known to do this with its Galaxy S and Galaxy Note lineup. 

It is also pertinent to note that the South Korean giant is currently in the process of making an adjustment in its high-end catalogue with the gradual merger between the Galaxy S and Galaxy Note ranges.

The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5G, released in July 2020, features the Snapdragon 865 and costs 1500 euros / © AndroidPIT

But Samsung’s Z-series, the foldable range, is without a doubt the one on which the manufacturer will concentrate the most efforts in the months and years to come. Alongside the traditional flagships that are the Galaxy S, the Galaxy Z Fold/Flip will be one of the two pillars of Samsung’s high-end catalogue.

I really don’t see the manufacturer releasing a mid-range folding smartphone in 2021. That’s way too soon. But it’s true that the absence of 5G can be a source of some optimism. Indeed, Qualcomm’s latest high-end SoCs usually integrated with Galaxy Z Fold/Flip all have a 5G modem. In fact, as of 2020, almost all SoCs, both high-end and low-end, have 5G compatibility by default.

On the Galaxy S20, only European models equipped with the Exynos 990 chip were available with 4G-only. The Snapdragon 865 variants couldn’t do without 5G, since Qualcomm forced its 5G X55 modem even though it wasn’t integrated into the chipset, and the first-ever Galaxy Z Flip made do with the Snapdragon 855+ without the X55 modem.

Is the form factor worth it?

If the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3, or one of its variants, does indeed miss out on the 5G, then you could be seeing a phone that might come powered by the old Snapdragon 855+ SoC from 2019. Logically, Samsung could not decently sell a smartphone with a 2019 SoC as a flagship at 1500 euros, the price of the previous Galaxy Z Flip. What an aberration in terms of value for money! More seriously, the Snapdragon 855+ remains very competitive in 2020 and behaves, in terms of raw performance, like a Snapdragon 765G.

For 90% of users with classic usage that doesn’t go beyond web browsing, social networking, video and music streaming and launching a few mobile mini-games, the impact on the user experience would be imperceptible. We don’t need the Snapdragon 865 or 888 in absolute terms, and even less need the 5G at this point.

But there’s no denying that Samsung would have to agree to a price cut. By using 5G as a sacrosanct sales and innovation argument, manufacturers have shot themselves in the foot. Releasing a high-end smartphone that isn’t 5G-ready in 2020 and 2021 is totally “has been.”

On the other hand, releasing a high-end smartphone “has been” by claiming that it’s a mid-range model, more affordable and intended to democratize a technology that was once inaccessible to the average person, is better.

Other rumors announce an “affordable” Galaxy Z Fold in 2021, I don’t believe it either / © NextPit

What I mean by that is that a less technically ambitious but cheaper folding smartphone would be one of the first signs of the downfall we’ve been waiting for since the release of the first Galaxy Z Fold. A way to allow more users to acquire a foldable smartphone without having to pay more than a minimum wage.

Personally, I think the unique form factor and the innovative user experience that comes with it is really worth it. I loved the Z Fold 2 and praised it in my review. But I know for a fact that I could never afford such an expensive smartphone. And I’d be willing to make a few minor technical concessions to get my hands on this more reasonably priced, less above-ground techno.

And frankly, having to settle for a high-end 2019 SoC Snapdragon 855+ without 5G seems like a more than acceptable sacrifice to me as long as the smartphone is under $1,000. And that’s when I wake up. I don’t see any parallel universe in which Samsung would sell a foldable smartphone for less than 1,000 euros in 2021.

That’s still too early. If the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 could, in my opinion, and according to this leak, be more affordable with a 4G variant, we’ll have to wait at least another one or two years before we have a truly affordable folding smartphone on the market.


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