Samsung Unpacked 2023 is still fresh in our memories, but rival manufacturer Xiaomi is already trying to steal back the spotlight with its own folding phone announcement.
Unpacked is the annual Samsung event where the Korean tech giant unveils a host of new gadgets. This year we were treated to a new Galaxy Watch 6, the Galaxy Tab S9 slate, and two new folding phones – with the arrival of the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 and Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5. But Samsung’s folding phone rivals don’t want to be left out of the conversation.
Taking to Twitter (now X) and WeChat, Xiaomi CEO Lei Jun released a teaser for the Xiaomi Mix Fold 3 which he says is coming in August. Crucially, it’ll come with a feature that was surprisingly absent from the new Galaxy Z Flip 5.
In a short statement included with a teaser image, Jun promised the Mix Fold 3 would come with a quad-camera system that’ll include a periscope lens module. Despite featuring on other rival folding phones like the Google Pixel Fold, and on the Samsung S23 Ultra from Samsung's own non-folding range, the Z Fold 5 lacks a long-zoom periscope camera – and has practically the same setup as its predecessor the Fold 4.
Our partnership with Leica has taken a significant leap forward, achieving remarkable milestones in mobile imaging.We've made breakthroughs in key areas such as micro OIS motors, ultra-slim high refractive lenses, compact periscope modules, and camera designs. These have… pic.twitter.com/vu8wmYn68GJuly 27, 2023
A periscope lens is a compact camera module that allows a smartphone to increase its optical zoom capabilities without needing a thicker lens – which would result in a bulkier phone. The periscope lens achieves this by using a special arrangement of lenses and mirrors that sit perpendicular to the main camera sensor.
There’s still a lot we don’t know about the upcoming Xiaomi phone, but it’s already got one victory over its Galaxy Z Flip 5 rival – the only downside is most of us may be unable to buy it. Both previous Mix Fold phones were China exclusives, and there’s a good chance history will repeat itself with the Mix Fold 3.
We shouldn’t have long left to find out if the folding smartphone line will finally leave home though. Given the phone is apparently coming sometime in August – which is four days away at the time of writing – we’re likely only a few weeks away from Xiaomi sharing everything we need to know about the Mix Fold 3.
Xiaomi's time to strike?
This year’s Samsung Unpacked reveals – at least as far as the folding phones are concerned – were more than a little lackluster.
As our US Mobile Editor Philip Berne explained in a recent op-ed – folding phones are innately impressive. Go back to 2007 when the iPhone launched and the Galaxy Z Fold 5 would fry everyone’s primitive brains what with its folding glass display, array of camera lenses, and sleek S Pen stylus. But when looking at the difference between the Galaxy Z Fold 4 and the Z Fold 5, the differences are almost negligible – making the new phone seem kinda “boring.”
Samsung has had a hold over the folding phone market so far. Yes, there are other options out there, but none of them has the same brand recognition as Samsung – at least right now. Xiaomi – and to some extent Google with its Pixel Fold – have a chance to loosen Samsung’s grip by highlighting the exciting features their phones have that Samsung’s don’t.
A bit of extra competition will be a great thing for all of us too. When the Galaxy Z Fold 6 comes around, Samsung will know it can’t simply rest on its laurels and rely on the general buzz around folding phones – it needs to launch a smartphone that feels new and exciting in and of itself. It might also help to finally bring folding phones own to a more reasonable price as rivals try to undercut each other.
We'll have to wait and see if Xiaomi and others take this opportunity to strike back. In the meantime, you can check out our best foldable phone guide to see what other options are out there that might take your fancy.
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Hamish is a Senior Staff Writer for TechRadar and you’ll see his name appearing on articles across nearly every topic on the site from smart home deals to speaker reviews to graphics card news and everything in between. He uses his broad range of knowledge to help explain the latest gadgets and if they’re a must-buy or a fad fueled by hype. Though his specialty is writing about everything going on in the world of virtual reality and augmented reality.