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Why foldable phones are so incredibly expensive

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(CNN) Chris Pantons is a big fan of the so-called Google Pixel. Originally from Knoxville, Tennessee, he loves software, cameras, virtual assistants, it’s all there.even he credit of When I was in an accident a few years ago, you saved his life using the car crash detection tool on your phone.

“I’ve owned virtually every Pixel device,” says Pantons, 33, who has posted hundreds of YouTube videos about Pixel phones and other tech products. “I inspired a lot of my family to switch to her Pixel. My brother and sister-in-law, my mother and my wife… and my co-workers also switched to her Pixel.”

But this year is the first time he hasn’t upgraded to Pixel’s latest offering. pixel fold, folding smartphones starting at $1,799. “I would love to own one,” he told CNN. “I don’t have the financial strength to do that…” [That] Prices for first-generation devices are astronomical. ”

Earlier this month, Google announced make clear This is a foldable smartphone that promises to offer all the features customers expect from a phone, paired with a tablet-sized display. But Pantone wasn’t the only company feeling sticker shock.

“My first car was $1800,” wrote one user on Twitter. “Google [lost] Another said he was saving money because he knew the price of the Pixel foldable phone would inevitably go up when it was announced.

“The fact that you can buy the new Pixel, Pixel tablet and Pixel Watch for less than the Fold and have a variety of devices to suit your use case makes it all the more valuable,” said Pantones. .

Pricing issues aren’t unique to Google. When Samsung launched the Galaxy Z Fold in 2020, it was priced at $1,999. Although prices have dropped slightly, the latest version of the Z Fold still starts at $1,799, the same as the Pixel Fold. Even in folding models from low-end brands, in foreign markets he sells for well over $1,000.

By comparison, the flagship iPhone starts at $799, less than half the price of the Pixel Fold. And then, out of the blue, his classic ’90s-style prepaid flip phone appeared. trendy Again, it only costs $20.

High price is one of the factors limiting the size of the foldable market. Samsung currently dominates this category, followed by Motorola, Lenovo, Oppo, Huawei and others. According to ABI Research, foldable and flexible displays accounted for about 0.7% of the smartphone market in 2021, but are expected to drop to just under 2% by 2022.

Lowering the price could improve traction, but manufacturers may struggle to do so anytime soon.

premium parts

Flexible screens in foldable smartphones are one of the biggest reasons for their high prices.

Flexible displays require more engineering and are more expensive to manufacture than traditional displays. And the Google Pixel Fold has two, a 5.8-inch cover display and a 7.6-inch inner display.

New Google Pixel Fold phone

Other components unique to foldables also drive up costs. For example, the Pixel Fold runs on a custom-made 180-degree hinge. According to the company, this mechanism has been moved completely to the bottom of the display to improve dust resistance and reduce the overall thickness of the device. This also requires complex engineering and costly manufacturing.

“A major source of spending is the high cost of components, especially folding displays and hinge technology, often resulting in proprietary hinge designs,” said David McQueen. Director of ABI Research. “So prices won’t come down any time soon until volumes are high enough for vendors to scale.”

niche product

Foldable smartphones are still in their infancy.As a result, much of the research and development and associated costs remain Manufacturers have their sights set on the future as they fine-tune their products.

“Companies often try to recoup their investment by charging high prices,” said Nabila Popal, research director at market research firm IDC.

Foldable phones are also a niche product for now, with manufacturers targeting early-buyer prices to offset costs.

uncertain future

The future of foldable devices remains uncertain. Most apps are not yet optimized for foldable devices. Google’s biggest rival, Apple, has yet to embrace that option. And splurging on a first-generation device with so many unknowns is a risky bet for anyone.

Foldable phones are also notoriously fragile. For example, early versions of the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold had screen problem. Repairing a foldable smartphone can also be expensive.

But Google’s decision to go with this option may help convince more consumers to take the chance.

Sean Milfort, a PhD student at North Central University, said he pre-ordered the Pixel Fold because he always wanted a foldable smartphone and didn’t want to leave the Pixel brand.

“I’m a big fan of the Pixel series and really liked the idea of ​​being foldable,” he said. “The fact that it’s coming from Google gives us hope that Google will seriously invest in larger form factor devices powered by Android as it develops his Android. “

But resistance groups like Pantone’s may wait for a possible drop in prices.

“If trade-in deals become available or go on sale later, that will probably be the time.” [I’ll buy one],” He said.

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