Aishwarya Ramesh

Is this the right time for Samsung to push foldable smartphones?

Especially since the devices cost upwards of Rs 1 lakh...

Samsung has been going out on a limb to convince people to buy its latest offering of foldable smartphones. In September, Samsung announced the launch of the Galaxy Fold. As the name suggests, it is a foldable smartphone.

When closed, a user can access their essentials on the cover display comfortably with one hand and, when opened, he can explore new ways to multitask, watch videos, play games, and more on its 7.3-inch Infinity Flex Display.

“The category-defining Galaxy Fold is a device that defies the barriers of traditional smartphone design. Consumers have responded positively to larger screens. The Galaxy Fold’s revolutionary form factor offers a bigger, more immersive screen without sacrificing portability,” said DJ Koh, president and CEO of IT and mobile communications division, Samsung Electronics.

The Galaxy Fold combines the features of a smartphone and tablet to deliver a new kind of mobile device with a foldable UX, and a versatile camera.

In 2019, Motorola introduced a foldable smartphone whose interface imitated a yesteryear flip phone. In the same year, LG also introduced a model of phones which possessed dual screens for a doubled up display effect.

The Galaxy Fold also changes how a user can capture, share and edit mobile content. When closed, he can shoot a quick video, and then simply open the device to watch it on a larger screen. With App Continuity, the video will transition from the cover display to the main display.

The latest version of Samsung Galaxy Fold sets will cost upwards of Rs 1.19 lakh. We couldn't help but wonder if it is an optimised marketing strategy for Samsung, considering that we are in the middle of a pandemic and a recession? Who will buy these gadgets, or even show interest in them? We spoke to two experts to find out...

Expert panel

Faisal Kawoosa, founder, techARC, points out that the direction of the fold does make a difference, because of the way that content is being consumed these days. “The bigger screen helps to create a more immersive experience. The phone falls in the luxury category, since its price is above Rs 50,000. Luxury brands like BMW and Mercedes were advertising more on TV since the (COVID) lockdown began. These brands understand that their segment has not been affected by the lockdown and the recession, much.”

Kawoosa adds that sales of phones in the luxury category make up approximately two per cent of the overall smartphone sales in India. “I think Samsung has played this strategy well. When it comes to buying smartphones, brand recall is important. You can use any model as an anchor for that purpose.”

Faisal Kawoosa
Faisal Kawoosa

As far as the audiences are concerned, he says that there is one category of people who might indulge in impulse purchases. People who know and understand the technology of the phone need not necessarily see it in person to complete the transaction.

Shubhajit Sen, founding partner, A Priori Consultants (former CMO, Micromax), agrees that this is a smart strategy on Samsung’s part, and will work in its favour. “Samsung has not had any major technological innovations for the past few years. Most of its innovations have been focused on processors and camera technology.”

Shubhajit Sen
Shubhajit Sen

Sen adds that the competition in the market right now is Samsung versus Apple. In the tech innovations front, Samsung has taken the lead with the foldable smartphone.

Sen explains that for any marketing team, its initiatives tend to have two objectives: brand building and business building. Brand building, according to him, is the activities undertaken to create equity for a particular brand. Business building is the other initiatives taken to sell more units and create profitability for the company.

“Samsung is not trying to sell its phones in that sense. It’s more of an attempt to make their presence felt in the market with this innovation.”

Sen adds that Motorola’s model of a foldable phone closed inwards did not do much for the display size, whereas Samsung’s new phone model doubles up the display size – which makes it more convenient for those who want to view content.

Sen also mentions that the cost of the phone is high, as the technology is quite nascent in the market right now, and expects it (the cost) to reduce as technology becomes more commonplace, available on more handsets, a few years down the line.

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