Foldable smartphones had an auspicious introduction to the world when certain companies wanted to be first to release them and as such released unfinished products. Since then though they have gone from strength to strength in not just popularity but also quality and features. New research by leading research and advisory group Omdia has shown that even though the price of foldables is at the upper end of the market their sales have increased rapidly with more than 9 million units sold in 2021 (8 million of these were in the second half of the year).
As you would expect Samsung is the largest OEM in the foldable smartphone market having shipped over 88%, or 10 million units, of the entire foldables thanks to their nine foldable smartphone models. Their current third generation foldables seem to have hit the right spot with sales increasing majorly from the previous year.
The Samsung Galaxy Z-Flip 3 5G became the world’s largest selling foldable smartphone int he second half of 2021 with shipment of over 4.6 units — this was an incredible 52% of the entire foldable smartphone market for 2021. The big result for the Z-Flip 3 5G has been attributed to not just the improvement in foldable hardware but also a price reduction of over 20%. The sales of this model were a massive 3.6 million more units than its predecessor the previous year.
Behind the Galaxy Z-Flip 3 5G in popularity was the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 5G with a total of 2.5 million shipments. The price reduction of this model compared to its predecessor could also account for some of this increase. Samsung have been at this foldable business for three released generations now, so it is no surprise to see them not just producing great hardware but producing it at a scale where price reductions are possible.
Huawei were one of the original manufacturers of the foldable smartphone and are continuing at it and are the second largest foldable smartphone OEM, accounting for 10% of the market in 2021 even with them only able to sell a 4G version of it and is only able to be sold in China.
With other manufacturers looking to make a splash in the foldable smartphone market including Xiaomi, OPPO, Honor and Vivo it will be interesting to see just how the market grows in the coming years. OPPO in fact have gone for a foldable (rather than a flip) but it is a more compact foldable than the others on the market to make the phone more pocketable. Expect to see other new form factors in the coming years as the market diversifies with more manufacturers releasing foldable smartphones.
Even after a massive nine million foldables were sold last year accounting for the 309% increase on the year before, the market is expected to grow once again this year. With 14 million units expected to be shipped this year the grow is expected to continue in the coming years with over 60 million sold by 2026, accounting for 3.6% of the total smartphone market.
Given that the foldable smartphone prices are decreasing and the hardware and software improving I think this could well be a very conservative figure — time will tell.