Samsung, ranked as the world’s largest smartphone maker, is ready to test the luxury market with its Galaxy Fold smartphone costing around Rs 164,999. Yes, that’s the price you have to pay for a foldable smartphone, which will go up for pre-booking in India on Friday.
The South Korean major believes the Galaxy Fold embodies absolute luxury and therefore it deserves the price tag. India, along with the US and South Korea, are among the first wave of countries where Samsung has launched the Galaxy Fold.
While many think India might be an odd choice to launch a smartphone that retails for Rs 164,999 Samsung India’s SVP and Chief Marketing Officer Ranjivjit Singh begs to differ. “The level of anticipation in the market is huge,” Singh told indianexpress.com. “This [Galaxy Fold] is a phone like no other …it defines category. There are a set of consumers who put a lot of value on innovation, they have a passion for technology and are looking to simplify and ease their life. They don’t want to carry multiple devices. The Galaxy Fold satisfies that person who wants a smartphone and yet wants a big screen and wants a compact device within the pocket. This is for them.”
Singh adds, “It is our job to make sure that the product we’re serving is of the quality that is expected from a luxury smartphone like this.” The initial response we are getting is phenomenal in terms of registrations, he added. Samsung will start shipping the device to those who pre-booked starting October 20.
The Galaxy Fold transforms into a tablet
But you probably asking yourself: why the Galaxy Fold is so expensive? Well, there’s actually a number of reasons. The idea behind the Galaxy Fold is to show people a cutting-edge smartphone that’s unlike any they have ever seen. The design of the Galaxy Fold is a departure from a regular smartphone, which has a slab-like shape.
The phone has a standard 4.6-inch screen on the front, but open it up like a book and it reveals a large 7.3-inch screen that folds in half. An Exynos 9825 processor is under the hood along with 12GB of RAM and 512GB of internal storage. The Galaxy Fold has a total of six cameras and a 4380mAh battery. The device lets you run three apps at once, something no other smartphone is currently capable of.
To justify the high-price, Samsung is offering users a premium support at no added cost. For instance, there is a 24×7 premium calling service, which gives access to a dedicated support for the device. In addition, Samsung is providing Galaxy Fold users with a one-time, one-year out-of-warranty screen replacement at Rs 10,500. And the company is bundling the Galaxy Buds wireless earbuds, as well as a free kevlar case in the box.
The Galaxy Fold will be imported from South Korea and the company has no plans to manufacture the device at its manufacturing facility in India now. According to Singh, the Galaxy Fold requires “a lot of engineering and to get that kind of scale, it’s probably better to do at one central location and disaggregate it.”
Singh didn’t mention how many Galaxy Fold units it plans to import to India, though the number is likely to be small.
The Galaxy Fold is positioned as a luxury object
Samsung is clear how it wants to position the Galaxy Fold in the market. Think of the Galaxy Fold as a luxury Louis Vuitton handbag or a Rolex watch. The Galaxy Fold has a “show-off” value and that’s exactly what makes this phone a “luxury” product. This is especially true in the case of phones.
People in India buy expensive smartphones for status symbol and quite naturally Samsung wants to tap in those customers. Before Samsung, the luxury phone maker Vertu used to sell high-end phones in India and the brand even had a store at DLF Emporio mall in Delhi’s upmarket Vasant Kunj area.
Singh says the company is putting a lot of emphasis on the entire retail experience when you walk inside of its select flagship stores to buy the Galaxy Fold. From a full display kit to trained staff, Singh promises 11 such stores across the country will showcase the Galaxy Fold’s design and innovative foldable screen to a discerning clientele. Overall, the Galaxy Fold will be available across 315 stores in 35 cities in India.
‘We’ve done the design improvements that needed to be done’
The Galaxy Fold is undoubtedly an interesting device. But the phone has had its fair share of controversies. The foldable phone was originally set to launch in April, but those plans were shelved after some reviewers reported broken screens and other issues. The company tweaked the design in July by improving the phone’s hinge area and extended the top protective layer that is not supposed to be removed.
Singh explains that the company has done its best to iron out all the issues before making the device available in the market.
“We sort of reviewed the units, we’ve gone back to the design, we have improved on the areas that needed improvement after rigorous testing,” he said, adding that “we haven’t rushed after that…we’ve already taken our time to come with this.”
“So whether it was the Infinity flex display that goes bezel to bezel in internal, or extended the hinges, or just making sure that it’s a very robust testing that we do, we’ve taken care of whatever the issues were. And we’re very confident now that this is fully tested for anyone who wants to use it with the right care,” he explains.
The launch of the Galaxy Fold has been a learning for Singh and team. He emphasised that the priority was to make sure the product design, the improvements that needed to be done and the testing to validate the concerns that were earlier raised were taken care of.
The Galaxy Fold is an expensive device, and it goes without saying that the phone will have a niche appeal. That being said, Singh is confident that the Galaxy Fold will be appreciated by consumers. “This is completely new, and people will get attracted towards something that is completely breakthrough in terms of new design, new innovation, new technology, new form factor and new engineering that’s coming into the Galaxy Fold.”
The Galaxy Fold is, obviously, an ambitious attempt to make way for future devices that converge the smartphone and the tablet. Perhaps what Samsung is doing is groundbreaking. But that doesn’t mean Samsung has won the battle. The high cost of foldable phones and the challenges of producing the flexible screen at volume will be a challenge for the tech major.
Samsung is preparing a move to the future of smartphones with the Galaxy Fold, but a lot also depends on how consumers react to the first generation of foldable smartphone. “We have to see what the response this [Galaxy Fold] phone gets and based on that response we will evaluate the consumer feedback, distill it out to what it means as next steps and then come up with the response, “ Singh says.