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Samsung picks Seoul to unveil new foldable phones for 1st time

Tech giant touts Seoul as epicenter of innovation, culture and top seller of foldable phones

June 7, 2023 - 15:32 By Jo He-rim
A promotional wall for Samsung’s latest foldable phones is seen at the tech giant’s retail store in southern Seoul. (Bloomberg)

Samsung Electronics, the world’s No. 1 smartphone maker by shipment, said Wednesday it will unveil its new foldable smartphone series in Seoul for the first time, in the “beating heart” of the company’s dynamic growth worldwide.

The upcoming Galaxy Unpacked event will be held at Coex convention center in Samseong-dong, Gangnam, on July 26. Samsung has advanced the launch schedule from the usual August to July, a move which would likely affect the company’s third-quarter earnings positively.

“The foldable category embodies Samsung’s philosophy of delivering breakthrough innovation that pushes boundaries to reshape the future of mobile experiences,” Samsung’s mobile chief Roh Tae-moon said.

“Hosting Unpacked in Seoul holds great significance both as it is a city that has become an emerging epicenter of innovation and culture, as well as the foldable category.”

For over a decade -- starting with the very first Unpacked in March 2010 in Las Vegas -- Samsung has held Unpacked events in key cities around the world including New York, London, Berlin and Barcelona.

For this year's unveiling, Samsung chose Seoul to unveil its new foldable smartphones, tentatively dubbed Galaxy Z Flip 5 and Z Fold 5, as it is the "beating heart of Samsung's dynamic growth worldwide."

"It is where Samsung's openness philosophy and innovation vision come from, guiding the future of the company,” Samsung said, adding that its choice also reflects the strong confidence in its leadership in foldable devices.

At the same time, the company views Seoul as appropriate to unveil its latest Galaxy foldable series, playing the role of "a bellwether further cementing mainstream adoption in global markets." According to Counterpoint Research, Seoul showed the highest share of foldable phones in annual smartphone shipment, 13.6 percent, in 2022.

Having held the unveiling event in major cities, the tech giant said it will now consider different "trend-leading cultural cities around the globe" embracing characters that match with its designated theme of each event in the future.

Industry observers view Samsung may have considered the promotional effect for Busan’s bid to host the 2030 World Expo when choosing to hold its global event in Seoul. Samsung, the country's largest conglomerate, has been leading the effort to globally promote Busan's bid, launching promotional events around the globe.

Others also say Samsung could have chosen to hold the Galaxy Unpacked on its home turf to reduce marketing costs, as the company has seen its operating earnings plunge 96.6 percent in the first three months of this year -- the worst score in 14 years.

In the January-March period this year, Samsung logged sales of 63.7 trillion won and an operating profit of 640 billion won.

While the company's mobile device business saw its operating profit edge up during the period with 3.94 trillion won and the revenue posting at 31.8 trillion won, the semiconductor business suffered an earnings loss of 4.58 trillion won, negatively affecting the overall earnings.

Introducing its Galaxy Fold for the first time in 2019, Samsung has continued to bolster the foldable series with the aim to make the form factor become the “new standard” for smartphones.

Rumors are rampant that the envisioned Galaxy Z Fold 5 would get the biggest design change since its first version, as Samsung reportedly has considered adopting a teardrop-style hinge, to reduce the appearance of display crease.

After launching the latest Galaxy foldable series last August, Roh has predicted that by 2025, the combined shipment of the company’s clamshell-type Galaxy Z Flip and book-type Galaxy Z Fold will “outsize that of other Galaxy premium smartphones,” including its flagship Galaxy S22, S22 Plus, as well as S22 Ultra -- which succeeds its Note lineup.

“By 2025, foldable items will take up more than 50 percent of Samsung‘s total premium smartphone shipments,” Roh said in a press conference at the time.

“Foldables will become the new standard of smartphones.”

Just as the tech giant’s mobile chief expects, foldable devices will likely secure more market share in the coming years, as competitors are seen to follow Samsung's path when launching their own foldable devices.

US tech giant Google is set to release its first foldable phone Pixel Fold, after it introduced the model last month, while Samsung's archrival Apple is also rumored to be working on its own foldable phone.