Foldable smartphones fail to excite consumers
Image courtesy: Samsung

Most smartphone manufacturers have a foldable model in their range nowadays. However, it seems that consumers aren’t as enthusiastic about the products as manufacturers, according to a report by Financial Times.

Foldable smartphones

Foldable smartphones have been on the market for nearly five years. The first foldable smartphone was the FlexPai from Chinese manufacturer Royole. However, this wasn’t a success and wasn’t widely available. Then in 2019, Samsung launched the Galaxy Fold, quickly followed by the Huawei Mate X and the Motorola RAZR. All three companies have continued to develop new foldable models since then. Other manufacturers, including Google, OnePlus and OPPO have also launched smartphones with foldable screens.

Market share

While manufacturers have been keen to promote foldable smartphones, consumers have not been so enthusiastic. A recent article in the Financial Times estimated that people will buy around 16 million foldable smartphones this year. That might seem like a big number, however, it’s only 1.3% of the 1.2 billion smartphone market total. Samsung is the current market leader, with its models making up 73% of foldables sold in the third quarter of 2023.

One of the main issues that has hampered the sales of foldable smartphones is price. Foldable screen technology is expensive, so foldable smartphones command a premium price. There were also concerns over durability and reliability with some of the early models which has affected consumer confidence. In addition, a lot of apps don’t make the most of the larger screens on foldable smartphones, so people don’t see the benefit. The cameras in foldable smartphones haven’t been as good as conventional models either.     

The future

Despite the relatively poor sales so far, smartphone manufacturers are continuing to back foldable models. In July 2023, Samsung released its 5G Galaxy Z Fold 5 and Flip 5 smartphones. The manufacturers Honor and Huawei both saw increases in foldable smartphone sales in China in the third quarter of 2023 as well. One notable absentee from the foldable market is Apple. So far, the company hasn’t given any indication that it might launch a foldable smartphone. However, Apple has filed patents that hint towards a foldable iPad in the future.

What we think

New technology normally sells well, especially when it is as innovative as foldable smartphones. However, there haven’t been many apps that use the phones’ bigger screens. As a result, consumers haven’t been persuaded to buy foldable smartphones, especially with their high prices and concerns over reliability. In addition, most people use their smartphones as their main camera, and the cameras on foldable models just haven’t been good enough. If they want to win the public over to foldable smartphones, manufacturers need to address these issues.

Pete Tomkies is a freelance cinematographer and camera operator from Manchester, UK. He also produces and directs short films as Duck66 Films. Pete's latest short Once Bitten... won 15 awards and was selected for 105 film festivals around the world.