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Samsung Dominates As Foldable Shipments Soar 66.6 Percent: IDC

Shane Snider

‘The recent launch of the Galaxy Z Flip 4 and Fold 4 will once again shine a spotlight on the entire category as Samsung continues to be the gold standard for foldable devices in the market,’ says Anthony Scarsella, a research manager with IDC.

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Foldable phone shipments skyrocketed in 2022, with worldwide shipped units reaching 13.5 million—a 66.6 percent increase over 2021 shipments.

But the impressive growth spurt didn’t move the needle much on total smartphone market share, with foldables grabbing about 1.1 percent of the market in 2022. Rock-solid sales from Samsung’s Flip and Fold releases helped pave the way for the impressive shipment tally, according to research firm IDC.

“The recent launch of the Galaxy Z Flip 4 and Fold 4 will once again shine a spotlight on the entire category as Samsung continues to be the gold standard for foldable devices in the market, “ Anthony Scarsella, a research manager with IDC, said in a statement. “The new launches from Samsung have brought incremental but critical improvements over their predecessors. The success of these devices should be a strong indicator of how foldables will evolve and capture consumers moving forward.”

Bob O’Donnell, president and chief analyst at TECHnalysis Research, sees the foldable market as a both a unique marketing opportunity and as the future of mobile technology. “I think it is the future,” he said in an interview with CRN. “This is a game-changing device and when you pull out a foldable at an airport, people are just knocked out.”

However, he said, one company would really launch the technology to the next level. “Until Apple does a foldable, the game-changing isn’t going to happen. And part of the reason they aren’t doing it is because the screens are hard to manufacture in big quantities. That gets back to a supply chain issue.”

And Samsung has that tech supply cornered right now, he said. “[Samsung] sees this as a great opportunity to leverage their own technology,” O’Donnell said.

The continued high price point, however, is still a sticking point for consumers, IDC’s Scarsella added. “While the price remains a pain point for consumers, the $999 starting price may be accepted … given that most consumer goods have seen price increases due to inflation in 2022.”

The impressive continued growth is expected to sustain itself, with IDC forecasting foldable phone shipments to reach 41.5 million units in 2026, an annual growth rate of 38.7 percent. That’s good news for enterprise use, IDC said. “The commercial segment of the market remains ripe for utilizing foldables as two-in-one devices that can replace both a phone and a tablet. Although IDC still believes this use case remains a low priority, falling prices and new business use cases make the idea more appealing moving forward,” according to an IDC report.

Traditional smartphones aren’t exactly in the dinosaur realm, however. IDC notes that the majority of mobile phones will stay on a more traditional touch-screen platform. “The biggest question today is whether foldable will become mainstream anytime soon? Unfortunately, the answer is no,” said Nabila Popal, research director with IDC, in a statement. “To me, mainstream means volume, and volume is dominated by cheaper, sub-$400 phones.”

Samsung chided Apple for its reluctance to enter the foldable fray in a recent marketing campaign. IDC sides with Apple here, saying it may be best not to rush into the foldable realm. “While it may be tempting for vendors to swoop in with lower selling prices to generate an initial boost in sales, I strongly believe that is not a good move—especially not at the expense of quality and user experience,” Popal added.

Still, others are making some interesting forays into the foldable market. Lenovo, for example, recently unveiled its ThinkPad X1 Fold, a foldable laptop that can offer a 16.3-inch OLED display experiences when laid flat.

“These new foldables are all very compelling,” O’Donnell said. “Will it ever become the mainstream? That’s the unanswered question.”

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Shane Snider

Shane Snider is a senior associate editor covering personal computing, mobile devices, semiconductor news, hardware reviews, breaking news and live events. Shane is a veteran journalist, having worked for newspapers in upstate New York and North Carolina. He can be reached at ssnider@thechannelcompany.com.

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