For a few years now, Samsung has been the only company selling multiple foldable phones in the United States at scale. The company had a unique first-mover advantage as its biggest rival in the country, Apple, hasn't bothered with foldable phones as yet. Its biggest rivals from overseas are primarily the Chinese OEMs and they haven't really been welcome in the US. This gave Samsung a lot of breathing space in the lucrative market as it worked hard to establish the credentials of its Galaxy Z Fold and Z Flip series.
That's now going to change. It was rumored for the longest time that Google is making a foldable phone of its own. The company formally unveiled the Google Pixel Fold earlier this week. It's a direct competitor to the Galaxy Z Fold series as it has a similar form factor. It even features display panels sourced from Samsung Display.
It has only been a few years since Google has taken its hardware efforts seriously. The company revamped its Pixel smartphone lineup and while it has had success with that, the number of phones it sells is not comparable to Samsung by any margin. Even though its sales increased in 2021, the numbers showed that Google would need half a century to sell as many phones as Samsung did that year.
The smartphone lineup isn't Google's bread and butter. In fact, the money that it makes from selling phones probably doesn't account for more than a rounding error on its balance sheet that includes billions from its ad business. It's likely that Google has no delusions about dethroning the likes of Samsung and Apple to become the leading smartphone vendor in the world.
Rather, it views the Pixel lineup as a way to showcase the best of Android. Customers who want capable devices that offer the best vanilla Android experience should opt for Pixel devices. That seems to be the underlying idea. With the Pixel Fold, Google is showcasing its vision for a foldable phone, and it appears to be a promising one.
The Pixel Fold is a direct competitor to Samsung's upcoming Galaxy Z Fold 5. Sure, it's missing the S Pen and the Qualcomm chipset, but based on the specs alone it's a bona fide flagship phone. It's also priced the same, $1,799, which means customers who are willing to spend that kind of money now have an alternative to Samsung's next Galaxy Z Fold.
While Samsung's foldables have had competition from its Chinese rivals in other parts of the world, including Europe, they have been relatively immune from that competition in the United States. That's set to change with the launch of the Pixel Fold. Google is an American company and particularly focuses on selling its Pixel devices in its home country.
This launch now makes the United States the new foldable battlefield. Both companies will fight it out for foldable supremacy in this important market. Samsung certainly has the first mover advantage because its phones have been out for a few years and have built up confidence among customers. The Pixel Fold is Google's first attempt and many would want to wait and see if it delivers on everything it promises, particularly in the durability department.
Nevertheless, the increased competition is good for the market. We'll likely see both Google and Samsung actively pushing their foldables in the country. While this may not lead to a race to the bottom for pricing, it's good to see that Samsung will be facing some competition in this key country and will now have a bigger incentive to push the envelope even further.
Apple, the poster child of the US smartphone market, still chooses to sit pretty on the sidelines. The company is yet to indicate that it wants to make a foldable phone, even though there have been rumors to that effect but nothing concrete has materialized yet. Perhaps it may take a few more years to decide if this is a form factor it wants to consider for the iPhone.
When Apple jumps in the fray, that's when the foldable wars in the US will really ignite. The company's loyal fan base will likely jump head first and pick up its first foldable. Depending on the rate of adoption, it's possible that Apple may end up surpassing Samsung's foldable market share in the United States in its first attempt.
Ultimately, Samsung, Apple and Google will likely be the three main factions in the US foldable battlefield. The Chinese devices will remain unwelcome in the market so it will be up to these three to divide the pie among themselves, assuming that Apple even bothers taking up this form factor at all.
If that doesn't happen, things will certainly be much better for Samsung. The company has gradually built up the confidence for its foldable series in the country. It's selling more and more units every year. Customers have started to realize that these aren't just novelty devices and that they're capable enough to be used as daily drivers.
With the amazing upgrades that it's expected to introduce with the 2023 foldable lineup and the upgrades that are to follow in the coming years, Samsung's foldable series will only go from strength to strength in the United States. It remains to be seen if Google has the will or capacity to keep up with it.
The Galaxy Z Flip happens to be Samsung's most popular foldable phone and it's also the one that sells the most. Any company wishing to dethrone it from the top spot will need to consider making clamshell foldables as well. There's no indication as yet that we might see one from Google but it would be nice if it went ahead and made one
More competition is always good for consumers. It shakes companies out of their complacency and pushes them to do better. The US foldable battlefield will push both Samsung and Google to deliver more capable foldable phones to customers consistently. What's there to not like about that.