Foldable phones are one of the more curious members of the mobile tech market. They seem like an answer looking for a problem, though some consider them as something they never knew they needed until they laid hands on one. It’s not exactly a stable market either, but that’s stopping Samsung from pushing out new models every year. 2024 won’t be any different, but the Galaxy Z Fold 6 might be, at least in some ways. Unlike its early days, Samsung seems to be content to move more slowly this time, letting its designs simmer longer even while its hardware grows by leaps and bounds. That’s especially true for its next foldable based on unofficial information, but that also paints a very mixed picture that could leave Samsung playing catch up in the very market it created.
Thin and Square
While foldable phones over great flexibility, they come at the cost of not only complexity and price but also ergonomics. These devices are practically two narrow smartphones joined together, so their combined thickness when folded is also twice that of regular smartphones. The most basic solution would be to make the device thinner, but like with regular smartphones, you’re bound to hit the limits of how thin you can go without compromising durability or safety.
Pushing those boundaries has been one of the biggest obsessions that foldable phone makers have, and it seems that Samsung is joining the fray this year. According to the latest leak, the Galaxy Z Fold 6 will be 11mm thick only when folded shut, a significant diet compared to the 13.4mm thickness of the current Galaxy Z Fold 5. That would make the unfolded form only about 5.5mm thick, which is crazy thin even by regular tablet standards. If true, that hopefully won’t come with compromises to the phone’s structural integrity and battery life.
The profile isn’t the only thing expected to change in the Galaxy Z Fold 6. The external Cover Screen is also tipped to be a bit wider this time around, more in line with the standard aspect ratios of non-foldable phones. In theory, this would make it less awkward to use it as a regular phone when folded, but that also means that the unfolded aspect ratio will be more square than any Galaxy Z Fold before it.
S Pen No Home
Making the Galaxy Z Fold 6 thinner is going to be a dream come true for some fans, but it will also probably disappoint a certain group because of the consequences of that change. If you make a phone thinner, you either have to shrink or reduce the size of other components, for example, the battery, or spread them around wider. Either way, it’s going to be a cramped space inside, which leaves no room for an S Pen silo yet again.
Although the Galaxy Z Fold series has supported Samsung’s Wacom-powered stylus since 2021, the S Pen never really had a proper home inside the device itself. Contrast this with the Galaxy S Ultra series that, inheriting the Galaxy Note spirit, came with an S Pen as part of the package. There might be debates on the ergonomics of such a thin stick, but owners at least had the option of not buying two extra accessories just for that writing and drawing experience.
Yes, two accessories, because you’re likely to buy a compatible case if you’ll be investing in an S Pen Fold Edition. There really is no other convenient alternative to making sure that you don’t lose the stylus in your pocket, bag, or anywhere else. Unfortunately, designs for these cases feel more like works in progress and it seems it will continue to be the case for another iteration.
The biggest disappointment, however, might come from the Galaxy Z Fold 6’s cameras. The latest word is that the upcoming foldable will sport a 50MP main camera, a 12MP ultra-wide shooter, and a 10MP telephoto camera on its back. The external front camera will be a 10MP selfie shooter while the internal front-facing camera has a 4MP under-display sensor.
Those are very much the same cameras used in the Galaxy Z Fold 4 from 2022, and although we don’t know yet of any hardware or software tweaks that Samsung will make, they’re still disappointing to hear. This is one area where the brand is being left in its competitors’ dust and where the product doesn’t feel deserving of its premium price tag. Some might actually forgive Samsung for putting a large camera bump on the phone’s back compared to reusing the same cameras for the third year in a row.
Of course, all of these are still unofficial information, so we might be pleasantly surprised by a more noteworthy Galaxy Z Fold 6 in August. Given the trends, though, that doesn’t seem to be likely, as Samsung is taking a more iterative approach to design with its large foldables. Maybe it doesn’t feel the heat from its rivals that don’t have the same market reach as the tech giant, but it’s also very close to stagnating and killing off the very trend that it started.
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