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I blame Apple for Samsung settling into foldable mediocrity

Meet the new Galaxy, same as the old Galaxy... and the even older Galaxy.
By

Published onJune 30, 2024

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 and Galaxy Z Flip 5 back panel
Ryan Haines / Android Authority

Yes, it’s a spicy headline, but hear me out. Have you seen the most recent leaks of Samsung’s upcoming foldable phones? If not, I can save you some time — it looks like the Galaxy Z Flip 6 and Galaxy Z Fold 6 will be carbon copies of their predecessors, just with a healthy dose of Galaxy AI on board. There’s not much else to look forward to in terms of a shallower crease, updated cameras, or, in the Galaxy Z Flip’s case, an improved cover screen experience that doesn’t require Good Lock. If you’ve seen the Galaxy Z Flip 5 and Galaxy Z Fold 5, you already know what you’re in for.

And, like any good Android fanboy, I will blame Apple for all of my problems.

Will Samsung copying Apple work in its favor?

378 votes

i(OS) don’t flip, U(I) don’t care

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5 app drawer folded
Ryan Haines / Android Authority

Simply put, until Apple enters the folding phone race, I don’t think Samsung will make any big moves with the Galaxy Z Fold or Galaxy Z Flip series. It just doesn’t have to — or at least it thinks it doesn’t. In the story of The Tortoise and the Hare, Samsung is the latter, settling down for a nap, sure that it can’t be caught. It’s good that the hare comes out victorious in that story, right?

Think about it, though — all of Samsung’s updates have a fear of Cupertino in them. Outside of the Dynamic Island, the iPhone 15 feels a lot like the iPhone 14, which felt like the iPhone 13 before it. In that same span, Samsung got rid of curved displays, shifted to flatter aluminum frames, and ditched its Contour Cut camera bump — the only distinctive piece of design personality that marked its Galaxy S21 and S22 series. Now, the Galaxy S24 looks and feels almost too much like an iPhone, relying on One UI and its third rear camera to set itself apart.

Complaining about the Galaxy S series isn’t the point, but it does help me emphasize Samsung’s tunnel vision for all things Apple. It isn’t changing or improving its Galaxy Z Flip or Fold because it doesn’t think it has to. Outside of the larger cover screen and updated chipset, the Galaxy Z Flip 5 is essentially the same as the Galaxy Z Flip 3. Both phones have the same dual 12MP cameras, the same internal display resolution, and the same crease running in front of the hinge.

The list of what Samsung has changed is shorter — much shorter — than the list of what's stayed the same.

Do I even need to mention how silly it is to need Good Lock to run most apps when the Motorola Razr and Razr Plus let you open any downloaded app? It doesn’t matter because Samsung doesn’t seem worried about what Motorola is doing.

Don’t get me wrong, the Galaxy Z Fold 5 has fared a little bit better in terms of upgrades, picking up a revamped camera system and gaining a slightly sharper resolution on its internal display, but the Fold’s biggest design change came way back when Samsung swapped out its tiny external display for one that filled the front panel — you know, four years ago.

Put the i in accessor(i)ze

A user dismissing an activity prompt on their Apple Watch Ultra 2.
Kaitlyn Cimino / Android Authority

Samsung isn’t just following Apple when it comes to flagship phones, either. Recent leaks of the Galaxy Watch 7 Ultra and Galaxy Buds 3 series suggest that Samsung is copying Apple’s homework with the promise to change a few things so it isn’t obvious. Unfortunately, it’s obvious.

Samsung's designs have officially come full squircle.

Everything about the Galaxy Watch 7 Ultra screams Apple Watch Ultra clone, from the squircle (is that really what we’re calling it?) frame to the orange-accented buttons to the proprietary new watch band connection. Even the style of the leaked silicone band looks embarrassingly close to that of Apple’s Ocean Band. Oh, and of course, it’s rumored to be made of titanium because what premium device these days isn’t?

Don’t get me wrong — the Apple Watch Ultra is a good watch. It should inspire Samsung to raise its level, but that doesn’t have to mean copying everything about it while jamming a round peg into a square hole — er, round display onto a square case. I thought that Samsung was on the right track with its Galaxy Watch 5 Pro, a titanium-framed, Sapphire-protected adventure watch that still looked and felt like a Galaxy Watch. It was an Apple Watch Ultra competitor in terms of battery life, activity options, and durability. It could have grown into a Ford vs Ferrari rivalry if Ford hadn’t just gone out and tried to build a Ferrari instead.

As for the updated Galaxy Buds 3 series, well, do your best to tell them apart from Apple’s AirPods. The new base Buds are rumored to come in a very familiar shade of white, relying on slightly angled ear stems and colored accents to tell them apart. Even the more premium Galaxy Buds Pro look like they’ve fallen into an Apple-flavored trap, picking up a lookalike charging case and using soft ear tips to set themselves apart. At least they come in gray — a color Apple would never use for its distinctive earbuds.

Go East, young man

So, why is it such a big problem that Samsung only has eyes for Apple? Well, there’s more than just Apple out there. Sure, Apple is probably Samsung’s most consistent competition in the United States, but the foldable phone market has exploded in international markets. We’ve heaped praise on OPPO’s Find N series for its shorter, wider design, complimented the OnePlus Open’s clever approach to multitasking (alright, technically, that was OPPO, too), and been impressed by HONOR’s impossibly thin Magic series. None of which Samsung has reacted to.

When you look at rival flip phones, it’s the same story — albeit on a smaller scale. Samsung didn’t react when OPPO added a third camera to its Find N3 Flip, giving it much-needed zoom flexibility. It hasn’t done much in response to the closer-to-home Motorola Razr and Razr Plus, even though the pairing offers a better cover screen experience and a rounded frame that’s much more comfortable in hand.

I’m not sure if there’s a way to add a third animal to Aesop’s legendary fable, but that’s where we’re at. Samsung’s hare is too focused on Apple’s tortoise and completely ignoring the — I don’t know — squirrel representing a mix of OPPO, Motorola, HONOR, and even Google. Sure, it’s still in the lead for foldable sales in the US, but it risks falling off the podium entirely unless we see some meaningful innovation soon. I just can’t believe we’re relying on Apple to give Samsung a wake-up call.

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