The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 costs $1,800, and even if it is one of the most desirable devices out there at the moment, that’s a pretty big bill to swallow.
But did you know there’s a company that is redefining the price of foldables — to the point where you can get a similar big-screen foldable smartphone and a compact flip-style folding phone like the Galaxy Z Flip 5 for less than the Z Fold 5 costs on its own? It’ll be a challenge to get them, but they’re a much-needed push into the mid-range for foldable smartphones.
You’ve probably never heard of Tecno, but the Chinese brand has been around since 2006; it just doesn’t officially sell its smartphones in the U.S. or the U.K. Instead, it has concentrated on emerging markets in Africa, the Middle East, and, more recently, India. It first came to my attention when I tried out the Tecno Phantom X2 Pro, a camera-centric smartphone that had a feature I’d never tried out before — a pop-out camera giving it a 65mm focal length for some lovely natural bokeh.
Seeing a phone with an unusual and innovative camera feature from a brand I’d only vaguely heard of definitely earned Tecno plenty of goodwill, and that was before being introduced to the Tecno Phantom V Fold, which launched at the end of 2022. At the time, big-screen foldables were still quite rare, but along came Tecno with its own take on the format, which it managed to deliver at an astonishing price.
The Tecno Phantom V Fold was released in several international markets for the local equivalent of about $1,099. Sure, there are compromises in the hardware and software — it doesn’t have an IP rating, it uses the lesser known MediaTek Dimensity 9000+ chipset, the camera is average at best, and the interface over Android 13 is full of wrinkles and foibles — but it’s a whole lot easier to deal with these aspects when you’ve saved $700 over its more famous competitor.
The thing to remember is that we mostly want to buy foldable phones for the foldable-ness, and the Phantom V Fold does that part really well.
Bargain flip to go with the fold
Tecno received even more goodwill with the V Fold, which, although somewhat flawed, was a brave, exciting new device. However, there was a chance the Phantom V Fold was a one-off or little more than a marketing exercise from a company keen to gain some international recognition. But thankfully, Tecno doesn’t seem to be playing that game, as in August, it announced the Tecno Phantom V Flip — a partner device to the V Fold that takes on the popular compact folding phone style.
It’s very similar to the Phantom V Fold in its approach, as it ignores things like IP ratings and flagship Qualcomm chips. Instead, it looks at delivering the best value with an up-to-date MediaTek Dimensity 8050 chip and individual styling through its unusual circular cover screen. It’s a mid-range phone dressed up like a flagship, and Tecno sensibly priced it accordingly, meaning it could be yours for $699 if you’re quick enough to get the early bird special.
Like the Phantom V Fold, it’s not perfect, and the software really needs getting used to if you’ve only used a Samsung or Google Android phone before. I also fired up the Phantom V Fold to write this article and was a little disappointed to find no software update waiting for me, even though the phone has been available since late last year.
That said, Tecno is a Google partner, so its update strategy could improve in the future. Plus, you’re always going to make some compromises when paying less for a phone design that most other manufacturers charge $1,000 or more for.
Opening foldables up to more people
You don’t have to be stellar at math to quickly work out that, added all together, the Phantom V Fold and Phantom V Flip cost $1,798. That’s a tiny bit less than you’d pay for the Galaxy Z Fold 5 on its own — or about $1,000 less than if you bought it with the Galaxy Z Flip 5. Both these Samsung phones are obviously more impressively specced and come with greater longevity and durability, but if you’re a serial mobile tech addict who changes their phones each year, just how much does this matter when you can save such a substantial amount of money?
Also, while all mid-range phones come with compromises, you aren’t compromising on the design with the Tecno Phantom foldables. Foldables are still the hottest thing in smartphones, and Tecno’s adjustment in specifications in order to meet a lower price allows more people to give these exciting devices a try.
Tecno is ahead of the game in this respect, as in the U.S. and the U.K., foldable smartphones are competing at the top end of the market. This isn’t wrong, as Samsung and Google clearly know what they’re doing, but cheaper models can only help foldables become mainstream.
Only Motorola and the Motorola Razr 40 come close to giving us a truly price-conscious folding phone at the moment, and there’s no real competing product if you want a foldable with a big screen at all. You’ll have to put in some work to buy the Tecno Phantom V Fold and V Flip in the U.S. or U.K., so be prepared to put up with those compromises when you get them and be happy with the amount of time and effort it’ll take to get the software right for you. But the value is undeniable.
Neither phone embarrasses the Galaxy Z Fold 5 or Z Flip 5 or anything like that, but they do give us a tantalizing glimpse of what modest, affordable foldables should look like going forward. Who doesn’t want the chance to grab a bargain, especially in the expensive world of new mobile tech?