Foldable Phones Battle For Market Share: Samsung Leads, Apple Absent

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The smartphone industry, excluding Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL), is betting on the potential revival of "foldable" phones, aiming to breathe life into a sluggish mobile market. 

Despite being on the market for a few years, these devices, featuring screens that open like a book, have struggled to capture mainstream consumer interest, constituting just over 1% of the global smartphone market, according to a report by The Financial Times.

Samsung Electronics Co (OTC:SSNGY), the world's largest smartphone manufacturer, has heavily invested in marketing its 5G Galaxy Z series this year, standing firm on the belief that foldable devices may constitute a third of smartphones priced above $600 by 2027, the report read.

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Other major players such as Motorola Solutions Inc (NYSE:MSI), Huawei, and its spin-off Honor are also banking on foldables to rejuvenate a market that has witnessed its worst year in more than a decade.

Industry analysts suggest that while foldables are gaining traction in premium segments in certain markets like the US and China, they are far from mainstream. 

Counterpoint Research estimates the sale of around 16 million foldable phones this year, constituting only 1.3% of the 1.2 billion smartphones expected to be sold globally in 2023, the Financial Times report added. 

However, concerns about pricing, reliability, and utility are deterring consumers, leading to questions about whether the market is oversaturated.

Despite the small market share in the overall smartphone landscape, foldables are making headway in the "premium segment" including the U.S. and China, contributing to the polarization between premium devices dominated by Apple and lower-cost handsets. 

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However, convincing consumers to embrace foldables at their premium prices remains a challenge, primarily due to worries about the durability of flexible screens and mechanical hinges, the report indicated. 

Return rates for foldables are higher than traditional smartphones, indicating a potential hurdle in securing repeat purchases.

Chinese manufacturers like Honor and Huawei have found a more receptive market for foldables in China, with sales doubling in the third quarter of 2023 compared to the same period last year. 

Samsung continues to dominate the global foldables market, holding a 73% share in the quarter, according to analyst Runar Bjørhovde at Canalys, as noted by The Financial Times. 

The industry sees foldables as a source of innovation in a market hungry for excitement.

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Photo: Shutterstock

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