Smartphone manufacturers still want to make foldable devices a reality

Zoom in / A Huawei Technologies Co. Mate X5 smartphone set up in Hong Kong, China, on Saturday, September 16, 2023.

Every major smartphone maker except Apple is betting that “foldable” phones will help revive a fading mobile phone market, even though the devices still largely fail to attract mainstream consumers.

Foldable devices, which have a screen that opens like a book or built-in mirror, barely exceed 1% of the market share of all smartphones sold globally nearly five years after they were first introduced.

But Samsung doubled its efforts in this product, and invested heavily in marketing this year. In July, the Korean group released the 5G Galaxy Z series.

The world's largest smartphone manufacturer cites estimates from Counterpoint Research that foldable devices could exceed a third of all smartphones costing more than $600 by 2027.

“We will continue to position our foldable devices as a key driver of our leading growth through the clear differentiation, experience and flexibility these devices provide,” Samsung said.

Other phone manufacturers, such as Motorola, the Chinese Huawei, and its subsidiary Honor, are pinning their hopes on the product that helps revive the market, which suffered its worst year in more than a decade.

“This is common people [in the industry] “I was really immersed,” said Ben Wood, an analyst at CCS Insight. “Everyone is betting on this now, except Apple.”

The iPhone maker has not yet shown any interest in this category, although patent filings indicate that it may one day offer an iPad that folds in half. Every other major smartphone manufacturer has followed Samsung into the market, including Google's Pixel Fold and Chinese alternatives from Huawei, Oppo and Xiaomi.

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Bond Zhang, CEO of Honor UK, said: “We believe foldable devices are the future of smartphone devices, just like electric cars are for the car industry.” “We are approaching a critical turning point where foldable devices may soon become mainstream.”

But market data shows that foldable devices are still far from mainstream. Counterpoint Research estimates that about 16 million foldable phones will be sold this year, or just 1.3% of the total smartphone market of 1.2 billion. Analysts say concerns about price, reliability and utility are deterring consumers.

“I wonder if there are too many products chasing too little market share right now,” Wood said.

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