Foldable phones – Where have they come and what could be next for Samsung and its competitors

More than 15 million foldable phones will be bought worldwide this year, and the segment, while still niche, is growing in an overall shrinking smartphone market. Samsung has the “lion’s share”, but the rivals are not in vain either. What the present looks like for foldable phones and what’s next.

Samsung foldable phonesPhoto: Hotnews

Counterpoint data says that 9 million foldable phones were sold in the world in 2021, and there will be 16 million this year. In the first part of this year, the market shares look like this: Samsung 62%, Huawei 16% and Oppo 3%. For the second part of the year, as the new Z Flip4 and Z Fold4 models have been launched, Samsung is expected to have an 80% share.

It’s long past 2019 when the first models were launched and when Samsung had big problems with the screen of its first foldable phone. The released models are no longer like test ones, they have become mature, they are much more resistant, the hinges no longer seem fragile and it has been clearly proven that they can be used successfully every day.

IDC estimates that in 2025 more than 27 million foldable phones could be sold in the world, and various sources estimate that in 2024 or 2025 Apple will release the first foldable model, which will mean that it could quickly reach the second place in terms of market.

The biggest minus for foldables is the price: Z Fold 4 starts from 8,900 lei, and Z Flip 4 from 5,400 lei, a good point being at least that the prices have not changed much compared to last year, especially since they have increased prices of various components.

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Clearly, there is still a lot of work to be done in terms of price reduction, and this should be seen in the coming years. However, we shouldn’t expect spectacular price drops: probably in the future Z Flip generations the launch price can drop below 5,000 lei in the coming years, but it seems hard to believe that it will reach the area of ​​4,000 – 4,500 lei.

As for the Z Fold, being the super-premium model with a large screen, no significant price reductions can be expected and it will clearly remain at over 1,500 euros.

Flip phones are interesting because they are so different from classic smartphones, you can “juggle” between a large screen and a small one, and you can easily use several applications at once. Plus, the big screen is great for movies and games.

Companies are making and launching foldables because the profit margin is much higher on them than on entry-level or mid-range phones, and global figures show 20% growth in super-premium smartphone sales, those that cost $900 and up.

Overall, the entire smartphone market is falling, but the premium segment is growing, the most profitable for companies like Samsung and Apple.

But foldables will remain a niche, because they have prices of over 5,000 lei in a market where most Romanians buy phones in the range of 1,000-1,500 lei.

Critics of foldable phones say that they have more minuses than pluses, starting from the steep price and the fact that these phones will be both a smartphone and a tablet at the same time, but they are not exceptional in either category, being heavy, thick and fragile Critics also say that it is better – and clearly cheaper – to get a good smartphone, but also a tablet to use when you need to watch content on a big screen.

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But these ‘foldable’ phones brought diversity to a segment of smartphones where all models looked pretty much the same and ‘fresh air’ was needed. It remains for foldables to become affordable, and that will depend on the price of the components, but also on the technological solutions that companies such as Samsung, Huawei, Oppo, Motorola and, finally, Apple will find.

Companies are testing phones with various ways of folding and “folding” and have a lot of prototypes, but few have a chance to reach the mainstream, since they have to be durable and have a reasonable price.