Foldable smartphones tend to command premium prices, but could Samsung be about to unveil the first 'affordable' phone that folds in half?

We take a look at all the news and rumours surrounding the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold FE that might arrive later this year.

When will the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold FE be released?

Samsung hasn’t actually confirmed the existence of the Galaxy Z Fold FE, but the rumours that have already begun circulating seem to suggest that it’s a real possibility.

Of course, knowing when it might arrive is even more of a mystery, with no previous model of this type to give us any indication of a release schedule.

In 2020 Samsung introduced the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE (Fan Edition) which was a slightly stripped-down version of the flagship Samsung Galaxy S20, with a commensurate drop in price. The company also indicated that this approach would be taken with various other flagship models, so you could argue that Samsung has indirectly confirmed there could well be a Galaxy Z Fold FE at some point.

This was given further credence when Max Weinbach of Android Police posted the tweet below, mentioning the Galaxy Z Fold SE would appear in 2021 along with a new Galaxy S21 FE, Galaxy Z Flip 3, Galaxy Z Fold 3, Galaxy S21, Galaxy S21+ and Galaxy S21 Ultra.

In terms of timescale, this remains unclear. The Galaxy S20 FE made its debut on 2 October 2020, six months or so after the Galaxy S20 was released on 6 March 2020. With the Galaxy Z Fold 2 appearing on 18 September 2020, this could mean that April 2021 would be the expected time for the Galaxy Z Fold FE if Samsung uses the same interval.

However, while Samsung has previously released phones in April, it tends to reserve the flagships for Unpacked events, and it seems unlikely that it will be unveiled at Samsung's CES launch on 14 January.

How much will the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold FE cost?

Again, there’s no price guidebook to reference with regards to the amount you’ll need to pay for the Galaxy Z Fold FE.

Looking at the comparative prices of the Galaxy S20 and S20 FE we see the following:

  • Samsung Galaxy S20: £799 (No US version)
  • Samsung Galaxy S20 5G: £899/$999
  • Samsung Galaxy S20 FE: £599 (No US version)
  • Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G: £699/$699

So, there are around £200/$300 differences between comparable S20 and S20 FE models. If this holds true for the more expensive Galaxy Z Fold line-up then we could see the following structure:

  • Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2: £1799/$1999
  • Samsung Galaxy Z Fold FE: £1599/$1699

That’s still a lot of money for a phone and doesn’t really fulfil the FE mandate of making premium phones attainable without the massive outlay. There have been other rumours of a Galaxy Z Fold Lite (which could just be the FE with an earlier name) which had the aforementioned Max Wienbach stating that the new model would cost $1099, which could make the UK edition around that magic £999 mark.

What features will we see in the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold FE?

As you can see from the tweet above, the new Galaxy Z Fold FE could come with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 865, feature an aluminium and glass body, but miss out on 5G connectivity.

Obviously, these could all be cost cutting measures to offset the manufacturing expense of the folding display, but even £1000/$1000 for a phone with these limitations could prove just too expensive for those who want the latest and greatest.

Weinbach doesn’t have the field all to himself though, as Let’s Go Digital posted a collection of patent applications from Samsung regarding foldable devices. One of these that has yet to appear features an exterior strip display that can show notifications without the need to open the clamshell chassis. The lack of an exterior screen, as found on the Galaxy Z Fold 2, would be another way for Samsung to reduce costs, thus making the Galazy Z Fold FE more affordable.

Another idea that is put forward by Tom’s Hardware is that Samsung could simply repackage the original Galaxy Z Fold as the FE, meaning there would be little or no tooling and design costs, aside from rebadging the units. Now, there were quite serious issues with the displays on those original devices, so we’d assume that Samsung would deploy the newer technology that it developed for the Galaxy Z Fold 2.

With that elements solved, the Galaxy Z Fold FE would then come with 12GB RAM, 512GB of storage, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor, a foldable 7.3in Dynamic AMOLED display accompanied by a 4.6in Super AMOLED on the exterior, plus plenty of other top-draw components from a couple of years ago.

As you can see, there’s still a large amount of speculation surrounding this device. Hopefully, some of this will be cleared up at Samsung’s 2021 Unpacked event on 14 January, but even if it isn’t you can take a look at our guide to the best phones expected in 2021 to see the competition any Samsung device will face.