Why are foldable phones so expensive?

(CNN) Chris Pantones is what you might call a super fan of the Google Pixel. The Knoxville, Tennessee native loves software, a camera, a virtual assistant, all of it. is even credits the The phone’s car accident detection tool saved his life a few years ago when he had an accident.

“I’ve owned practically every Pixel device,” said Pantones, 33, who has posted hundreds of videos to YouTube about Pixel phones and other tech products. “I influenced a lot of my family to switch to the Pixel — my brother, my sister-in-law, my mom, my wife…and I had a co-worker too.”

But this is the first year he won’t upgrade to the latest Pixel offering: the Pixel Fold, a foldable smartphone that starts at $1,799. “I would love to own it,” he told CNN. “I don’t have the financial resources to do that… [That] The price of the first generation device is astronomical.

Earlier this month, Google became the latest tech company to unveil a foldable smartphone, promising to give customers all the features they expect in a phone, paired with a tablet-sized screen. But Pantones wasn’t the only one feeling sticker shock.

“My first car was $1,800,” one user wrote on Twitter. “Google [lost] Another user said that he is saving enough, knowing that the price of the foldable Pixel phone will undoubtedly be high once it is announced.

“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 use cases is an even better value,” Pantones said.

The pricing issue is not unique to Google. When Samsung launched the Galaxy Z Fold in 2020, it cost $1,999. It’s come down in price somewhat, but the latest version of the Z Fold still starts at $1,799 — the same price as the Pixel Fold. Even folding models from budget brands retail for more than $1,000 in overseas markets.

In comparison, the flagship iPhone starts at $799, less than half the price of the Pixel Fold. And classic ’90s-style prepaid phones, suddenly fashionable again, can cost less than $20.

One of the factors limiting the size of the foldable market is the higher price point. Samsung currently dominates this category, followed by others including Motorola, Lenovo, Oppo, and Huawei. According to ABI Research, foldable and flexible screens accounted for about 0.7% of the smartphone market in 2021, and in 2022 they are expected to decline by only 2%.

Lowering the price can help boost traction, but manufacturers may struggle to do so anytime soon.

Excellent spare parts

The flexible screen on foldable phones is one of the biggest reasons why these phones are so expensive.

Flexible displays require more engineering and are more expensive to manufacture than traditional displays. The Google Pixel Fold has two screens: a 5.8-inch display and a 7.6-inch inner screen.

The new Google Pixel Fold

Other components unique to foldable devices also drive up the cost. For example, the Pixel Fold moves on a specially designed hinge 180 degrees. The entire mechanism has been moved from the bottom of the screen to improve dust resistance and reduce the overall thickness of the device, according to the company. This also required complex engineering and costly manufacturing.

“The expenses are mainly related to the higher costs of components, particularly the foldable displays and the hinge technology, which in many cases is a proprietary hinge design,” said David McQueen, one of the researchers. Director at ABI Research. “So, until volume grows enough that sellers can increase volume, prices aren’t going down anytime soon.”

specialized product

Foldable smartphones are still in their infancy. As a result, a lot of research and development and associated costs remain Manufacturers wait as they fine-tune their products.

“Companies often try to recoup their investment at a high price,” said Nabila Popal, director of research at market research firm IDC.

Foldable phones also remain a niche product for now, and manufacturers are targeting the price for people willing to buy them early to help offset costs.

unknown future

The future of the folds remains uncertain. Most of the apps are still not optimized for foldable devices; Google’s main competitor, Apple, has not yet embraced this option. And showing off a first-generation device with a lot of unknowns is a risky bet for anyone.

Foldable phones are also notably fragile. Older versions of the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold, for example, had screen problems. Foldable smartphone repairs can also be costly.

But Google’s decision to embrace the option may help convince more consumers to take a chance.

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

“I’m a huge fan of the Pixel line and loved the idea of ​​the fold,” he said. “The fact that it’s coming from Google — because they make Android — gives me hope that they’re really going to invest in this bigger-looking device with Android.”

But hurdles like Pantons may await the possibility of their price dropping.

“If a barter deal becomes available at a later date or is put up for sale, then maybe [I’ll buy one],” He said.

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