Z Fold 5, Pixel Fold and iPhone Fold: Is the perfect foldable phone already here, or is Samsung's dominance about to crumble in 2023?

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
Z Fold 5, Pixel Fold and iPhone Fold: Is the perfect foldable phone already here, or is Samsung's do
2023 is going to be a very exciting year for the tech enthusiast. It could be the first (and who knows – only?) year that we may get a foldable phone from all the major, mainstream brands we love and trust.

Because so far from the major leagues we've had only Samsung to thank for folding phones getting to where they are now – basically mainstream. Not mainstream, as in – everybody owns one, but mainstream, as in – everybody knows about the Galaxy Z Fold and Z Flip, and has the option to go ahead and buy it from the nearest tech store.

And with Samsung's only competition as of today being smaller, less reputable Chinese brands, releasing phones that are hard to get a hold of in the west, the Korean giant has been able to get a firm, tight grip on the folding phone market, and dominates it with an iron… hinge…

But is Samsung's foldable phone market dominance about to crumble this year, when Apple and Google are expected to join in on the fun, or does the Galaxy company have nothing to worry about?

Let's try to find out, and simultaneously, let's see who the upcoming folding phones from all three companies are for!

Galaxy Z Fold 5: The ultimate 2023 productivity phone?

The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 is almost certain to make its debut this August, and we're expecting some great changes for it, over its predecessor. As we can see from the photo above, allegedly showing a Z Fold 5 prototype (right) next to the current Z Fold 4, the new one is both slimmer, and notably wider.

We also recently came across a wild rumor that said Galaxy Z Fold 5 will feature a 108MP camera and creaseless screen – so even if just the latter is true, that would be a major step towards perfection, in my book.

The Galaxy Z Fold 4 is already my favorite phone right now, and not just because it has stylus support and it's the perfect size for both sketching and touch-typing. Not only because it's also the perfect size for web browsing, mobile gaming, and not only because it has superb multitasking features, like split screen app support, a fixed taskbar, windowed apps…

Not only because it has Samsung DeX, which can turn it into a PC the moment you connect it to an external display… And not only because it has great stereo speakers and is perfect for binge-watching 90s TV shows filmed in the kind of aspect ratio that almost fills the phone's big, foldable display edge-to-edge.

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Oh wait, yes, those are all exactly the reasons I love this phone. Which tech enthusiast wouldn't be happy with all that?

Well, there's room for improvement, as always, and if what Samsung supposedly showcased at CES is true – improvements there shall be. The current Z Fold 4 remains bulky, with its Snickers bar shape, and it's a tad heavy too.

So doing some engineering magic to make the Z Fold 5 thinner – that'd be a huge win. Even more so if Samsung's engineers can abra cadabra it to be lighter too.

So who's the Galaxy Z Fold 5 going to be for, then? At an expected price of nearly $2,000 – not your average smartphone user, that's for sure. Only a true, diehard tech enthusiast can justify coughing up that kind of money even for what's likely to be 2023's most feature-packed foldable phone.

Indeed, Samsung's next efforts should be aimed at reducing that price, especially now that legitimately threatening competition may be coming. Let's start with the more likely challenger, before we get to the wildly hated and loved fruit-logo one, that's seemingly still on the fence about foldables anyway.

Google Pixel Fold: Got anything new to offer, or are you just going to be a cheaper option?

Pixel Fold concept, courtesy of OnLeaks

I wasn't too sure about Google in the early Pixel days. It was copying Apple, it was copying Android trends, and in my eyes, the phones it made up until recently weren't anything special to sneeze at.

But lo and behold, starting with the Pixel 6 series, Google found its own voice; its phones now have their own, distinct look and feel, and the 6, plus the Pixel 7 series now, are beloved by many.

Now the question is, are we about to see Google do the same song and dance with its supposed upcoming Google Pixel Fold? Because by many early accounts, this foldable from the search engine giant was going to be nothing more than a simplified clone of the Galaxy Z Fold, meaning no special features, no stylus support, no nothing.

Just a barebones folding phone, for Google to use like a toe being dipped into the waters of the current foldable phone market. See if they're warm, see if the fish are biting.

Back in 2022 we heard conflicting rumors that Google had flat out canceled, or at the very least put its foldable on hiatus. More than once, in fact. But nonetheless, right now it seems that Google's foldable, whatever its name may actually be (we'll go with Pixel Fold, for now), might actually see a release around August, uncoincidentally about the same time as Samsung's Z Fold 5.

Now this prediction is based on intel from unverified supply chain sources, so take it with a grain of salt, but after years of self-doubt, and little apparent faith in its project, I'm willing to bet Google is finally confident in what it's got in store for us, and we'll see the fruits of its labor this year.

Problem is, the Google Pixel Fold (or Google Passport, or Pixel Notepad, we've heard a lot of codenames) is rumored to also cost quite a pretty penny at around $1,800. And since another thing we can reasonably expect is lack of stylus support, or even close to all the features Samsung is giving its folding phone users, the question remains – is Google's foldable going to have enough to offer a tech enthusiast willing to drop nearly 2k on a promise?

To be fair, Google's in control of Android, and Android has been getting more and more compatible with bigger displays, dual displays, and yes – folding displays. It's reasonable to assume Google is just going to push for general Android software features that will complement all folding phones, including its own potential one. But we'll just have to wait a few months and see what Google's big game plan is.

But for now, with what little intel we have on Google's upcoming folding phone – it may be a simpler, less feature-packed alternative to the Z Fold 5, at a slightly cheaper price. So while there will be a market for it, consisting of western folding phone fans who would like to skip the Z Fold for whatever reason, let's hope Google manages to get that price down further. Because a "budget" foldable phone is what we really need! Get it in as many people's hands as possible, and the entire market will win as a result.

But hey, again, we'll just have to wait and see what big daddy Google does. Because for now, it's pretty much been flip-flopping around between releasing and canceling its fabled foldable phone.

iPhone Fold: Is Apple even paying attention?

You ever just wish your iPhone could unfold into an iPad? I sure have. Let's face it, the iPad is most people's favorite tablet for good reason – from its performance, to its highly polished and optimized productivity apps. Some of which Apple gives you for free!

My dream is a phone that can be a phone when it needs to, meaning not too bulky in the pocket, and with reasonable battery life, but also a productivity tablet after you give it a quick book-like unfold. Android is too segmented and needs to cater to countless different devices with different specs, so Android apps, in turn, don't always work flawlessly, or perform as well as they could have if their devs could tailor them to just one or two devices instead.

Well, Apple has the lead on that one. iOS and iPadOS app developers have just a few Apple devices to optimize their apps for, and as a result – most iPad apps perform beautifully.

So – an iPhone that unfolds into an iPad, a.k.a. "The Dream," is that what Apple is going to give us? Well, not really.

As was the case with Google earlier, news about Apple's foldable iPhone are few and far between, and worst of all – a bit conflicting, also. What we know from the more reliable rumors we've heard – Apple's folding iPhone is actually not going to have the book-like form factor of the Z Fold or Google's Pixel fold, but will instead be a folding-screen flip phone like the Galaxy Z Flip 4.

Maybe we shouldn't be surprised that Apple would go for the trendier and more widely-appealing design, rather than what the tech enthusiasts may prefer, but again – it's all rumors. Is this really what the iPhone foldable will look like? We'll find out at best later this year, at most reasonable – next year, but likely – never.

Because Apple has quietly been hedging its bets on another type of technology for years now, and might easily just skip over doing a folding iPhone altogether. And that new technology is augmented reality (AR).

Apple's first AR glasses and/or AR+VR headset is speculated to finally be unveiled this year, and judging by the cash other companies, like Meta (formerly Facebook), are pouring into consumer AR and VR – maybe there's something there. In fact, I'm certain that there is.

But back on track. Apple's folding iPhone, whether it actually makes a debut in the coming couple of years or not, is most likely to be a flip phone, and definitely not a productivity focused one. Not an iPhone that unfolds into an iPad, sadly.

That aside, it could definitely be a trendy one; the Z Flip certainly is, and surely you've already seen influencers flaunt it in their posts! It's a hot, wanted item, and most importantly – way cheaper than the already-niche Z Fold.

Far be it for Apple to surprise us with a productivity phone that may dip into iPad sales, so that's the best we can hope for in terms of a folding iPhone, if there ever is any at all.

But don't be disheartened, Apple fans, get hyped for AR! It's coming soon, and it has the potential to be huge.

In conclusion, Samsung likely has nothing to be afraid of. Google is too late, and Apple is placing its bets on a different technology

That's pretty much it, kids. By now, Samsung has established itself as the dominant folding phone brand, and even if Google finally gets confident enough to release a foldable in 2023, which does seem likely, finding a niche to beat the Z Fold at would be a challenge.

As for Apple, it's fair to say a folding iPhone isn't its priority right now. While in the past we've seen rumors and patents that suggested it was toying with the idea, most signs right now, in 2023, suggest that Tim Cook's "next big thing" is going to be AR. Not a folding iPhone.

What do you think? Which 2023 folding phone are you most excited for, and do you believe Google has a shot at taking down Samsung by (hopefully) offering a good, cheaper alternative to the Z Fold 5?

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