It’s a shame Samsung won’t give the Galaxy Z Flip 6 what it needs the most

I’ve been a Galaxy Z Flip convert ever since Samsung launched the very first one. It ticked all the boxes for me and still does. I don’t particularly enjoy carrying large phones around and since I always have multiple flagships lying at home around due the nature of my work, there’s always a device or two on hand for playing games, testing apps, consuming content, etc. My primary phone can thus be a versatile device that doesn’t feel like a brick and is easy to carry.

So began my love affair with Samsung’s Galaxy Z Flip series. It was impressive that Samsung continued to raise the bar every year. From making these devices water resistant with the Galaxy Z Flip 3 to the exceptionally durable gapless hinge that just demolishes the competition with the Galaxy Z Flip 5, Samsung’s clamshell foldable has gone from strength to strength.

However, there has been one area where Samsung has noticeably not been too interested in pushing the envelope: the camera. The updates have been meagre at best and the clamshell foldable still doesn’t have a dedicated telephoto (zoom) camera. The lack of significant camera upgrades isn’t just a complaint that fans have with the Galaxy Z Flip series. The Galaxy Z Fold’s camera doesn’t do justice to its price tag, either. You won’t get Samsung’s best camera experience on its foldables, for that you’ll need a device from the Galaxy S series.

Forget flagships, Samsung doesn’t have such a relaxed attitude towards camera upgrades for its mid-range and even mass-market devices. Those are highly competitive segments and Samsung has to compete with what other OEMs are putting on the market, so you’re likely to get more significant camera upgrades from one iteration to the other on more affordable devices compared to the company’s foldables.

The lack of true competition is certainly what gives Samsung the ability to capitalize on its dominant position in the foldables segment. It has gradually built up its dominance and continues to add to it. Samsung may also launch more attainable foldable phones over the next few years to cater to a lot more customers.

It remains one of the leading suppliers of foldable phones in the world, particularly in markets like North America, where Chinese foldable smartphones are non-existent. So even as the Chinese pump out objectively good foldable phones with enviable camera setups, they aren’t troubling Samsung in some of the most lucrative markets, so it’s not as motivated to go all out in the camera department.

This has basically been Samsung’s approach after clinching the first-mover advantage by unveiling the first mass-market foldable device in 2019. One would have hoped that Samsung finally stops coasting on this success and gives these devices the camera upgrades they deserve. Take the upcoming Galaxy Z Flip 6, for example. It will use the very best Snapdragon chipset from Qualcomm, Samsung’s latest blqzing-fast mobile DRAM, its best and brightest foldable display panel yet, and a number of other optimizations that will certainly make it one of the best Samsung phones on the market this year. The lack of meaningful camera upgrades will just feel like Samsung baked the perfect cake but forgot to put the cherry on top.

Yes, the Galaxy Z Flip 6 will have an upgraded 50-megapixel primary sensor compared to the Galaxy Z Flip 5’s 12-megapixel sensor, but that’s about the extent of its camera upgrades. Another year will go by without a dedicated zoom camera on the Galaxy Z Flip 6. Some of its competitors, like Motorola’s RAZR 50 Ultra and Huawei’s Pocket 2 clamshell foldable, both feature a dedicated telephoto lens. Clearly it’s not about a technical limitation or space constraints. If they can do it, so can Samsung, but it choses not to.

Samsung’s workaround for the lack of a telephoto lens will likely be in-sensor crop for optical zoom-like quality, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that the company is deliberately handicapping one of its most popular devices of 2024. It also makes the device less useful in certain situations when a telephoto lens comes in super handy, as an avid traveler I can’t tell you how many times I’ve felt frustrated that my Z Flip 5 doesn’t have optical zoom.

The argument can no longer be made that people who buy foldable phones aren’t that interested in having top-of-the-line cameras. They’re paying flagship prices for these devices, so they should receive flagship-like capabilities. Also if Samsung’s aim is to have its foldables at the very top of the smartphone food chain, which is a stated goal of the company, it has to make them worthy of the spot.

There’s not much you can fault with Samsung’s foldable phones. They’re put together exceptionally well, they’re very durable, powerful, versatile, useful, and stylish. The software experience is greatly optimized, the software support is second to none, and with Galaxy AI these phones also have the added benefit of offering features that many of the rival foldables don’t.

I don’t believe that there’s much of a risk with foldables cannibalizing sales of the Galaxy S series if they were to have similar, if not better, camera setups. Long-time Samsung fans will remember that the Galaxy Note flagships that used to be launched in the second half of the year often brought camera upgrades that the Galaxy S series released earlier that year didn’t have. There’s no reason why we can’t return to that with foldables.

The camera isn’t what makes people choose a foldable over a conventional smartphone. Their reasons go beyond that. They not only have to believe in the form factor but also of the value that it can add to their life. If someone isn’t convinced of the form factor, they won’t buy it, even if it has the best camera to ever exist in the history of humanity.

We’ll have to wait and see if Samsung realizes this and makes amends with next year’s foldable lineup, as things are pretty much set in stone for 2024. The company is expected to unveil its new foldable smartphones at an Unpacked event in Paris, likely taking place on July 10th.

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