Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 and Z Flip 4: why so few innovations?

When discovering the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 and Galaxy Z Flip 4, you may have noticed that there were few changes compared to the previous generation. This has undoubtedly disappointed a few people, but there are several reasons that can explain this.

The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 and Z Flip 4 // Source: Robin Wycke – Frandroid

It probably didn’t escape you: Samsung recently presented the Galaxy Z Fold 4 and the Galaxy Z Flip 4. Two new foldable smartphones that come to perfect a formula already well proven by the South Korean brand in this market segment. This is also the general idea that emerges from our first feedback on these devices. Don’t hesitate to read them:

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However, by taking the temperature within the drafting of Frandroidcolleagues from other tech media or our community on social networks, one thing seems to be clear: these new Samsung smartphones are not causing incredible enthusiasm.

Few changes from one generation to another

However, there is no doubt that it is the quintessence of the know-how of the Korean ogre which clearly raises these products to the rank of technological showcase. The Galaxy Z Fold 4 and Z Flip 4 enjoy more meticulous finishes than ever, a powerful chip (Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1), promising new software, an improved photo unit on the Fold, longer battery life reinforced on the Flip…

Yes, but here we are, the differences mentioned here remain (too?) discreet in the end compared to the previous generation which was already very successful. Just do a little duel Galaxy Z Fold 4 vs Galaxy Z Fold 3 to realize it. Same story on a comparison between the Galaxy Z Flip 4 and the Galaxy Z Flip 3. Therefore, a question may be asked: was there a real interest in releasing the Galaxy Z Fold 4 and Galaxy Z Flip 4? To answer that, you have to understand Samsung’s position. The manufacturer is necessarily motivated by strategic reasons and subject to industrial constraints.

Samsung (too) comfortable on foldable smartphones

We must already remember one thing. Samsung is a pioneer in the folding smartphone market. The company has been working on it for many years. Some people probably remember the promotional video from 2013 where the brand was already showing its first visions of the phone that could turn into a tablet.

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The clip has aged very badly and is quite awkward to watch today — have you really ever seen a woman being seduced by a man just because her phone is cool? –, but it proves that Samsung has been involved in this area for a long time. Thus, it was the first real player to enter the folding smartphone market. We agree that the very anecdotal Royole Flexpai, who had doubled the first Fold mainly to make the buzz, does not count. The manufacturer of the Galaxy Z Fold and Z Flip therefore occupies the position of first mover in the folding market. This has several advantages, the first of which is a high probability of occupying a hegemonic position for a good while.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 folding
The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 being folded // Source: Arnaud Gelineau – Frandroid

Huawei’s attempts do not worry Samsung, the fierce Oppo, Xiaomi, Vivo or Honor are not yet bothering it outside the very particular Chinese market, Google is still preparing its Pixel NotePad and Apple has not woken up for the moment. Consequently, in France, foldables account for 15% of our premium smartphone sales. We intend to increase this share to 25%“, explains François Hernandez, vice-president of Samsung Electronics France, in The world. The manager knows that he has free rein to lead his boat quietly. “Even at these price points, we know how to sell large volumes, as with the Galaxy S22 which is in the same price typology.»

As you will have understood, Samsung is confident and not really worried at the moment. He can therefore afford the luxury of resting a little on his laurels and not forcing himself to make huge improvements from one generation to the next while maintaining high prices which he knows he can justify by skillfully cultivating a image of refinement and technical prowess.

Avoid overly risky innovations

We’ve talked about the advantages of being a first mover in a market, but this position also carries several risks. It is often to the pioneer that falls the painful task of paying the broken pots. Moreover, Samsung has not escaped. A misunderstanding at the level of the foldable screen among the first testers had forced the manufacturer to delay the release of the first Galaxy Fold. The brand had to prepare a solid communication campaign to reassure everyone.

It must be said that Samsung benefits from a unique experience in terms of crisis communication and the management of the multinational is undoubtedly still traumatized by the explosions of the Galaxy Note 7. The firm therefore knows only too well the bitter taste of a missed launch and all the difficulties that come with it.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 multitasking
The multitasking of the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 // Source: Arnaud Gelineau – Frandroid

As a first entrant in the market, Samsung must fully understand the risks it faces. And if we can forgive the first generation of foldable smartphones for having suffered the plasters, the indulgence of users is inevitably dwindling as technology improves. No question of being too reckless!

We imagine that the managers of the brand want to make sure that a technology is perfectly mastered before integrating it into their folding models. This is how the S Pen stylus still does not have the right to a dedicated storage location on the Galaxy Z Fold 4. Moreover, on the latter and on the Galaxy Z Flip 4, the fold is still quite marked in the middle of the internal screen. The South Korean could however have tried a teardrop-shaped fold as seen on the Oppo Find N, the Vivo X Fold or more recently the Xiaomi Mix Fold 2.

Xiaomi Mix Fold 2 micro waterdrop fold
The “micro drop” format fold of the Xiaomi Mix Fold 2 // Source: Xiaomi

This technique, however, makes it possible to better stretch the slab when it is unfolded and to erase the hollow under the fingers which disturb some people. Problem: With this method, the screen bends in more places when the phone is closed. So isn’t this taking too much of a risk?

A spokesperson for Samsung France had suggested to us that Samsung had the technical means to adopt this teardrop fold, but that it was difficult to envisage, because the company produced foldable smartphones on a larger scale than all the Chinese competitors. We are talking about ten million deliveries in 2021.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4
The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 // Source: Arnaud Gelineau – Frandroid

The slightest problem would therefore threaten a large fleet. As long as it can, Samsung therefore undoubtedly sees more advantage in taking all its time and letting other brands encounter certain difficulties. We imagine that several of the competitors are supplied by Samsung Display. The latter can therefore observe the performance of his tiles with his opponents to find the best optimizations to be made.

This is reminiscent of the first 108 megapixel sensor produced by Samsung. This component was first used in a Xiaomi smartphone, several months before the Galaxy S20 Ultra. Like what, the competition can sometimes act as an R&D pole.

A market at breakneck speed

A situation of virtual monopoly and a cautious policy have therefore undoubtedly prompted Samsung not to offer too many evolutions on its folders between 2021 and 2022. But suddenly, why bother to launch the Galaxy Z Fold 4 and Galaxy Z Flip? 4 anyway? Couldn’t the builder just wait another year?

Easier said than done. Even as the smartphone market has matured in many aspects, manufacturers have become accustomed to releasing at least one range refresh per year. The reason is simple: each actor wants to occupy the market and minds. Allowing yourself a blank year means taking the risk of dampening enthusiasm, beinghas-been. Unthinkable for the management and investors of a company!

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 vs. Flip 3
The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 on the left and its predecessor on the right // Source: Arnaud Gelineau – Frandroid

Despite all the promises to adopt more eco-responsible behaviors (biosourced materials, recovery of recycling, extended software monitoring, etc.), smartphone manufacturers continue to encourage consumption every year, even when the differences between two generations seem derisory. The future iPhone 14 (non-Pro) should be a good example of a next generation that is stagnating.

So should we blame Samsung? Yes, probably a little, but it is above all the operation of the smartphone market that must be called into question.

Hope no more, live happily

Are the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 and Galaxy Z Flip 4 worth shunning? Not really. They are fundamentally excellent smartphones. We have also started testing them and our first laboratory tests tend to show that there is a nice gain in terms of autonomy on both devices.

However, these two smartphones are a reminder of how high hopes each year for a future product are often the best way to be disappointed. By avoiding excessive enthusiasm, we probably avoid some disappointments. This might be the best way to quietly enjoy all the nice little things that the smartphone market still has to offer.

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