(CNN) Chris Pantons is what you call a Google Pixel super fan. The Knoxville, Tennessee native loves the software, the camera, the virtual assistant, all of it. He even loans the The car accident detection device of the phone saved his life a few years ago when he had an accident.

“I practically own every Pixel device,” said Pantons, 33, who has posted hundreds of YouTube videos about Pixel phones and other tech products. “I influenced a lot of my family to switch to Pixel — my brother and sister-in-law, my mom and wife… and I had a co-worker.”

But this is the first year it won’t upgrade to the latest Pixel offering: Pixel Fold, a foldable smartphone starting at $1,799. “I would love to have him,” he told CNN. “I don’t have the financial means to do this… [That] The price of the first generation device is astronomical.

Earlier this month, Google became the latest tech company to open a foldable smartphone combined with a tablet-sized display, promising to give customers all the features they expect in a phone. But Pantons wasn’t the only one feeling the sticker shock.

“My first car was $1,800,” one user wrote on Twitter. “Google [lost] Another user said they saved because they knew the price of the Pixel foldable phone would inevitably be high once it was announced.

“The fact that you can get a new Pixel, Pixel tablet and Pixel Watch for less than the Fold and have a variety of devices for use cases is a better value,” Pantons said.

The pricing problem is not unique to Google. When Samsung released the Galaxy Z Fold in 2020, it cost $1,999. The price has come down a bit, but the latest version of the Z Fold still starts at $1,799 – the same as the Pixel Fold. Even foldable models from budget brands are sold for more than $1,000 in overseas markets.

By comparison, the flagship iPhone starts at $799, less than half the price of the Pixel Fold. And classic 90s prepaid flip phones that are all at once tendencies it can still cost $20.

The higher price point is one of the factors limiting the size of the foldable market. Samsung currently dominates the category, followed by Motorola, Lenovo, Oppo and Huawei. According to ABI Research, foldable and flexible displays accounted for about 0.7% of the smartphone market in 2021, which is expected to drop to just under 2% in 2022.

Lowering the price may help boost traction, but manufacturers may soon struggle to do so.

Premium parts

The flexible screen found on foldable phones is one of the biggest reasons why they are so expensive.

Flexible displays require more engineering and are more expensive to manufacture than traditional displays. The Google Pixel Fold, on the other hand, has two: a 5.8-inch cover display and a 7.6-inch internal display.

The new Google Pixel Fold phone

Other components inherent in foldables also add to the price. The Pixel Fold, for example, moves on a specially designed 180-degree hinge. According to the company, the mechanism has been completely removed from the bottom of the screen to increase dust resistance and reduce the overall thickness of the device. This requires complex engineering and expensive manufacturing.

“Costs are largely due to the high cost of components, particularly foldable displays and hinge technology, which in many cases is a custom hinge design,” said David McQueen, research. Director of ABI Research. “So prices won’t come down anytime soon until volume grows enough for sellers to scale.”

Niche product

Foldable smartphones are still in their infancy. Consequently, much of the research and development work and associated costs remain Manufacturers are ahead of the curve as they fine-tune their products.

“Companies often try to recoup their investment with a high price tag,” said Nabila Popal, research director at market research firm IDC.

Foldable phones also remain a niche product for now, and manufacturers are targeting the price for people who want to buy them early to cover costs.

Uncertain future

The future of foldables remains uncertain. Most apps are still not optimized for foldable devices; Google’s main competitor, Apple, has yet to adopt this option; and splurging for a first-gen device with so many unknowns is a risky bet for anyone.

Foldable phones are also very fragile. For example, there were the first versions of the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold screen problems. Foldable smartphones can also be expensive to repair.

But Google’s decision to embrace the option could help convince more consumers to take a chance.

Northcentral University PhD student Sean Milfort said he pre-ordered the Pixel Fold because he always wanted a foldable smartphone and didn’t want to part with the Pixel brand.

“I’m a big fan of the Pixel line and I liked the idea of ​​a foldable device,” he said. “The fact that it’s coming from Google — because they make Android — gives me hope that they’re really going to invest in a larger form factor device with Android.”

But stops like Pantons can wait for the chance that the price will drop.

“If a trade deal becomes available later, or if it’s for sale, then maybe [I’ll buy one],” he said.

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