Buying a foldable phone is a terrible investment right now

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
Buying a foldable phone is a terrible investment
Samsung has fixed the Galaxy Fold, but now the Mate X release is in troubleFoldable phones are a bit of a cult thing right now: some people really swear by them and confess to their life-changing properties, while another group, a much larger one has so far reacted with a collective shrug. Samsung's newest Z Fold 3 and Z Flip 3 are the best attempt so far to change the status quo and propel foldable phones into the mainstream, but if you were among the early adopters, there is one thing you have probably noticed if you are trying to upgrade or just sell your foldable phone.

That one thing is simply that resale value of foldable phones is not only bad — it's actually the worst in the industry.

The craze around foldable phones really started in the fall of 2019 when Samsung released the original Galaxy Fold, a device that unfolded into a tablet-sized screen and that cost just shy of $2,000. If you were among the first adopters who shelled out 2 grand on the latest and greatest at that time, you would find yourself in a bit of a frustrating reality when you try to sell that phone and move on to a different device.

The resale value of the Galaxy Fold has tanked

The first foldable phones cost double the price of regular flagships, and they also lost value at double the pace!

Compared to the iPhone 11 Pro Max, another popular phone released at the exact same time, the Galaxy Fold lost 75% of its original value, while the iPhone lost merely 47% of its value. Percentages, however, don't tell the story as dramatically as the actual numbers. Here is how much you would be getting if you try to sell your used phone right now:

Average resale value (Fall 2021)
  • Galaxy Fold — $500, or 75% loss in value (original price was $1,980)
  • iPhone 11 Pro Max — $580, or 47% loss in value (original price was $1,100)
  • Galaxy Note 10 Plus — $370, or 66% loss in value (original price was $1,100)

All of these phones were released at about the same time, in the second half of 2019, but all have lost value in different trajectories throughout these 2 years. With the Galaxy, those first adopters have effectively lost $1,500 dollars compared to a loss of just around $500 to $700 with other traditional flagships. That's double the difference, meaning that not only the first foldable phones cost twice as much as regular flagship, but they also lost their value twice as fast!

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Keep in mind that the numbers above are averages that we got on popular resale site Swappa, and it's possible that there is some slight variation depending on the condition of your device, but nothing major. 

But why has a $2,000 futuristic foldable collapsed in value so quickly on the resale market?

What's more interesting, however, are all the reasons why that has happened.

On one hand, it's possible that the initial issues with the first generations of foldables have turned off buyers and they consider those phones too risky to acquire, especially on the second-hand market. We are not sure if that holds water, though, as Samsung had already fixed the major issuesbefore releasing the first-gen Galaxy Fold.

Another, way more troubling possibility is that users are just not that interested in the foldable form factor, and with little demand, prices have quickly slumped to record lows.

Whatever the reason behind this, let's not forget that being in the early days, we should cut foldable phones some slack and allow them a couple of years to mature. It just seems like the latest Galaxy Z Flip 3 with its more appealing, $1,000 price is the firsts mainstream foldable that will give us a meaningful data point to see whether this re-born form factor can live on. Samsung is advertizing big uptake and says that its new foldables are sold out in a few key markets, but we'd wait for the initial hype to pass before passing a judgment.

What do you think about foldable phones? Are they something that you are excited about and are you ready to pay a bit extra to get one?

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