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Dropping foldables pricing sees shipments steadily rise

Sibahle Malinga
By Sibahle Malinga, ITWeb senior news journalist.
Johannesburg, 03 Jun 2024
The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4.
The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4.

Global shipments of foldable phones are expected to reach 17.8 million units in 2024, making up 1.5% of the smartphone market, despite their associated high repair rates and costs.

This is according to a new report by TrendForce, which reveals market penetration of foldable phones is gradually rising and is projected to climb to 4.8% by 2028.

One key factor attracting customers to foldable phones is the steadily declining pricing of some affordable brands, prompting competitors to focus on boosting display performance and reducing creasing, while also cutting the overall costs of the devices, the report states.

Samsung, a trailblazer in the foldable phone market, commanded over 80% of the market share in 2022, following the launch of the Galaxy Z Fold 4 (priced from R20 000 to R30 000), it says. However, with increasing competition from various brands in 2023 and 2024, Samsung’s global market share dropped from 60% and it now holds 52%, despite the launch of the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5, in August 2023 (priced from R28 799 to R53 000).

“Huawei made significant strides with its 4G Pocket S in 2023, boosting its market share to 12%. In 2024, Huawei released upgraded 5G models like the Mate X5 and Pocket 2. Additionally, they are set to launch the world’s first tri-fold phone in Q3, which could potentially raise their market share to nearly 30%,” notes the report.

Other brands − including Xiaomi, Oppo and Vivo − struggled to grow their foldable phone sales, with each falling below one million units, according to the report.

Oppo South Africa told ITWeb TV last year that it is seeing increased demand for its foldable phones in SA, with the first imported batch of its flagship Find N2 Flip selling out quickly.

While SA’s tightly-contested market is considered “price-sensitive”, the Chinese smartphone maker said at the time that there is a growing appetite for high-end smartphones, as local consumers in the premium segment increasingly seek unique features, such as durability, more storage and a longer-lasting battery life.

The Oppo device competes with Honor’s foldable Magic V2, Samsung’s Galaxy Z Fold 5 and Huawei’s Mate X3, among others.

IDC previously told ITWeb that despite their small market share in SA, foldable phones are starting to attract consumer attention, with local sales gradually increasing each year.

Pricing advantage has helped Motorola and Nubia stand out in the 2024 foldable phone market. Motorola made a strong entrance with its Razr 40 and Razr 40 Ultra − priced from R10 500 to R16 400 − which are anticipated to exceed one million units, while capturing a 6% market share. Chinese brand Nubia launched the Nubia Flip in Japan this year at a competitive $499 (R9 340). “Besides Japan and China, Nubia has started pre-sales in various markets, with promising sales prospects. The Nubia Flip likely uses hinges from Chinese suppliers and foldable OLED panels from Chinese panel-makers, significantly lowering product costs to achieve a competitive price point,” says TrendForce.

According to the Counterpoint market research firm, global foldable smartphone shipments were up 49% year-on-year in Q1 2024, marking its highest rate of increase in six quarters.

Growth during the quarter was driven by Huawei, Honor and Motorola. Huawei saw shipments outside of China rise sharply compared to a year ago, it says.

In Q1 2024, book-type foldables accounted for 55% of global foldable market shipments, surpassing the clamshell type for the first time since 2021. The clamshell market, predominantly led by Samsung, has always enjoyed popularity due to its more accessible pricing,” says Counterpoint.

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