The foldable form factor is already becoming mainstream and in a few years will record annual sales of over 100 million units, TM Roh, President & Head of Mobile Business, Samsung Electronics told in Seoul last week.
According to him, this year will be an essential tipping point for the segment with Samsung projecting global sales across brands of over 30 million units, especially with the improvements in its affordable foldable model.
After the launch of Samsung’s new Galaxy Z Flip5 and Fold5 foldable smartphones, Roh elaborated on his reasoning about the newest smartphone form factor becoming mainstream.
Research firm Canalys estimates that by 2025 the foldables segment will grow by 34% CAGR (compounded annual growth rate) to 35 million units. At the moment they account for just 1% of the Q1 2023 shipments. However, shipments grew 68% year-on-year and were expected to grow 25% in 2023 with more players entering the segment. Samsung held a 68% share of this segment in Q1 2023.
“Once we reach that threshold of 100 million units per year cumulatively, the foldable would have become a major player in the premium segment,” Roh reiterated. When the foldable will become the dominant form factor, perhaps at the expense of the conventional bar type, Roh said will depend on “the largest and the fastest growing market, which is India”, a “market that is highly sensitive to technological innovation and also very much open to innovation”.
The Galaxy products already account for 35% market share in the super-premium ($1000+) segment in India, he said, adding that “with the newly-launched Z Flip5 and Z Fold5 we are now aiming at over 50% market share”. Interestingly, Roh believes “the foldable category is going to expand to other categories like the tablet and PC and continue to develop.”
When the first Samsung foldable was launched in 2019, Roh remembered, they were convinced and confident “this was going to be a product not only for specific markets or people”. “It was not going to be a product only for the niche market. We believed that it was going to be an important player in the premium mobile market.”
This confidence, he said, stemmed from the understanding that like books and many other human tools, this form factor too folds to become portable. “People wanted to have large screens and more information but they also wanted to have the portability. In other words, if it were to be folded, then we would also have portability. And also by folding it, it could also protect what is important inside.” He added that the growth of the segment and the entry of other brands have now allayed the initial concerns.
The new Flip5 and Fold5 smartphones will be manufactured at Samsung’s production subsidiary in Noida. “The full global lineup is produced there to be supplied not only to the Indian market but to the rest of the world,” he said, calling the setup in India one of Samsung’s “best practice cases”. “So, if we can keep developing and strengthening such cooperation, then I believe that India can also be a very important manufacturing powerhouse.”
Accepting that the smartphone market has been slow in the first half of 2023, Roh drew attention to predictions that things are going to recover in the second half.
Underlining how he was proud of having created the foldables segment, Roh said there will be two pathways for innovation in the segment. One would be to improve the performance and the quality of the foldable itself, providing longer usage time in terms of battery and better performance, especially in the camera. Second, any new or improved form factor will be introduced to the market when we believe that it is ready to provide meaningful innovation and experience to the consumers, he added. “It is difficult to specify the timing of when such solutions will be made available. But when the time comes, then we will also unveil more affordable foldable as well.”