Chris Pantons is what you’d call a “super fan” of the Google Pixel. The man from Knoxville, Tennessee, loves everything about his phone, from the software to the camera to the virtual helper. He even says that the phone’s car crash recognition tool saved his life when he was in an accident a few years ago.
“I’ve had almost every Pixel device,” said Pantons, who is 33 years old and has made hundreds of videos on YouTube about Pixel phones and other tech products. “I got so many of my family members to switch to Pixel, including my brother and sister-in-law, my mom and wife, and even a coworker.”
But this is the first year he won’t upgrade to the Pixel Fold, a folding smartphone that starts at $1,799. “I’d love to own it,”. “I don’t have enough money for that. “That price is out of this world for a first-generation device.”
This month, Google became the latest tech company to show off a foldable smartphone. It promises to have all the features buyers have come to expect from a phone, along with a display the size of a tablet. But Pantons wasn’t the only one who was surprised by how much things cost.
“My first car was $1800,” one Twitter user wrote. “Google has gone crazy.” Another person said they’ve been saving up because they knew the price of a foldable Pixel phone would be high when it came out.
Pantons said, “The fact that you can buy a new Pixel, Pixel tablet, and Pixel Watch for less than the Fold and have different devices for different uses is a better value.”
Google isn’t the only company with a price problem. The Galaxy Z Fold cost $1,999 when Samsung released it in 2020. Even though the price has gone down a bit, the new version of the Z Fold still starts at $1,799, just like the Pixel Fold. Even foldable models from budget brands sell for well over $1,000 in markets abroad.
The top iPhone, on the other hand, starts at $799, which is less than half of what the Pixel Fold costs. And classic flip phones from the 1990s are back in style and can be bought for as little as $20.
One thing that keeps the market for foldable from being bigger is that they are more expensive. Samsung is the leader in this area right now, followed by Motorola, Lenovo, Oppo, and Huawei. ABI Research says that foldable and flexible displays made up about 0.7% of the smartphone market in 2021 and are likely to make up just under 2% of the market in 2022.
Getting more people to buy could be helped by lowering the price, but makers might not be able to do that any time soon.
One of the main reasons why folding phones cost so much is that their screens can bend. Making flexible screens costs more and takes more engineering than making regular displays. The top screen on the Google Pixel Fold is 5.8 inches, and the screen inside is 7.6 inches.
Other parts that are only found in foldable also add to the cost. For example, the Pixel Fold has a 180-degree flap that was made just for it. The company says that they moved the mechanism out from under the screen to make it less susceptible to dust and to make the gadget thinner overall. This also needs technical work that is hard and expensive to make.
David McQueen, research director at ABI Research, said, “The cost is mostly due to the high cost of parts, especially folding displays and hinge technology, which is often a proprietary hinge design.” “So prices won’t go down any time soon until the number of customers is high enough for vendors to get scale.”
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A Specialty Product
Smartphones that can be folded are still in their early stages. Because of this, manufacturers still have to do a lot of research and development and pay for it as they fine-tune their goods.
“Companies often try to recoup their investment with a high price tag,” said Nabila Popal, research director at the market research company IDC.
Foldable phones are also still a niche product for now, and the price is set for the people who are willing to buy them early to help makers cover costs.
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An Unsure Future
The future of foldable is still not clear. Most apps still aren’t optimized for foldable devices, and Google’s biggest competitor, Apple, hasn’t taken advantage of the feature yet. Spending a lot of money on a first-generation device with a lot of unknowns is a risky move for anyone.
Foldable phones are also known for being easy to break. For example, the screen on early models of the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold didn’t work right. Smartphones that can be folded can also be expensive to fix.
But the fact that Google is using the choice may convince more people to try it out. Sean Milfort, a Ph.D. student at Northcentral University, said he pre-ordered the Pixel Fold because he’s always wanted a folding smartphone and didn’t want to leave the Pixel brand.
He said, “I really like the Pixel line, and I’ve always liked the idea of a foldable.” “The fact that it’s from Google, which makes Android, gives me hope that they’ll put a lot of effort into that larger Android device.”
But people who don’t want to buy it yet, like Pantons, may wait in case the price goes down. “Maybe I’ll buy one if a trade-in deal comes up in the future or if it goes on sale,” he said.