The number of foldable smartphones shipped last year reached close to 10 million at a 300% growth rate as compared to 2020, said TM Roh, president and head of MX Business at Samsung Electronics.
Roh believes the growth momentum in the foldable segment will continue to grow. “We are reaching the moment where these foldable devices are becoming widespread and staking a bigger claim in the overall smartphone market,” Roh said in a blog post.
In February, market research firm International Data Corporation (IDC) estimated that the worldwide shipment of foldable smartphones will reach a total of 7.1 million units in 2021, up from 1.9 million units shipped in 2020 at a growth rate of 264.3%. IDC forecasted that it will grow to 27.6 million units by 2025.
In Canalys’ estimates, also published in February, shipment of foldable smartphones is expected to surpass 30 million by 2024. In 2021, 8.9 million units were shipped, according to Canalys.
The foldable smartphone segment is still niche and very few brands such as Samsung and Huawei have a lineup of such devices that are updated annually. Samsung launched its third generation foldable device Galaxy Z Fold 3 last August for ₹142,999. Oppo also launched its first foldable smartphone Find N in December. It is yet to launch in India.
Samsung is expected to launch new foldable devices at its upcoming global event in August. Koh said, “at our upcoming Unpacked on August 10th, I can’t wait to show you the potential of our new Samsung Galaxy foldables.”
Despite their higher price tag, foldable devices have been getting a lot of traction due to their large screen which makes them viable for entertainment as well as hybrid work.
According to industry analysts, foldable smartphones also provide an opportunity for Android brands to differentiate from rivals and boost smartphone sales, which has been declining in most mature markets.
The pressure has been further mounted on Android brands as Apple too is reportedly working on iPhones with a foldable screen. Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman said in January 2021 that Apple is working on an iPhone with foldable screen. This was later confirmed by an April 2021 report by Patently Apple, which said that the iPhone maker has been granted patent for a foldable smartphone by the US Patent and Trademark Office. Apple has not made any official announcement on foldable devices yet.