Sun. Sep 27th, 2020

What a world we live in when the announcement of a $2,000 price tag for a phone seems… not that bad. Samsung on Tuesday provided more details about its new Galaxy Z Fold 2 5G, which it first showed off at a virtual Unpacked event on Aug. 5. The biggest tidbit shared during “Unpacked Part 2” was the device’s price: $2,000 in the US — $20 more than last year’s model — which converts to about £1,490 or AU$2,700.

While $2,000 is prohibitively expensive for many people, especially in the middle of a pandemic, the pricing could have been worse. Samsung packed features into the Z Fold 2 that address most complaints with the older model, and it refined the foldable into even more of a sleek, luxury device. It even expanded its Galaxy Z Premier Service — which provides dedicated tech support to foldable buyers — to include perks like a free membership to FoundersCard and delivery of a meal from a Michelin starred restaurant. And Samsung added improvements like 5G to the US model.

“If you look at what they’ve done from a tech perspective, I was expecting it to be slightly more expensive,” Creative Strategies analyst Carolina Milanesi said. “But they kept the price. It’s one thing to say $2,000, but it’s another to go over to $2,200 or $2,300.”

Samsung’s latest foldable, which hits stores Sept. 18, comes at a difficult time for the phone market. The novel coronavirus has infected over 25 million people around the globe and killed about 850,000. Millions of people are out of work amid a recession that’s hitting the US hard, and COVID-19 shows no signs of abating in many places in the world. People have been scooping up electronics that let them work or take classes at home — like webcams and laptops — but they’ve been shunning purchases like 5G smartphones. This year, the phone industry will see its biggest drop in sales in a decade, according to CCS Insight.

But unlike the Galaxy Note 20, which starts at $1,000, the Z Fold 2 is clearly different from the pack. It’s a phone with a design that screams luxury, and while this is by no means a mass-market product, there will likely be a niche audience of people insulated from the impact of the coronavirus willing to pay that premium for something unique.

While foldables will be a tough sell in this environment, Samsung always finds a crop of buyers who want the latest and greatest — and don’t mind paying for that privilege.

“We can all probably intuitively agree that [$2,000 is] the high end of what someone’s going to be willing to pay for a phone,” Drew Blackard, vice president of product management for Samsung Electronics America, said in an interview. “For all intents and purposes, this is a luxury item. That’s why we’re providing all the benefits along with it for device ownership.”

Finessing the foldables

When the Galaxy Fold hit the market a year ago, it was something no one had really ever seen before. The device folded outward from a phone into a tablet, and it wowed most people who tested early versions of the device. But the Fold quickly ran into troubles, with journalists discovering screen defects. Samsung delayed the launch to fix the flaws. The device ultimately went on sale five months behind schedule READ MORE.

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