When it comes to the market for folding smartphones, things are just getting started. In late February, Samsung pulled the wraps off its Galaxy Fold which will be available for purchase this year in the United States. A few days later, Huawei unveiled its sleek Mate X, which won’t [officially] be sold here.
Other companies are confirmed to be developing folding smartphones including Xiaomi and Motorola, and the market for these devices is expected to slowly grow over the next four years. According to Garner, folding smartphones will take up 5 percent of the flagship smartphone segment by 2023. Given current smartphone trends and future projections, that would work out to about 50 million units shipped in 2023.
“We expect that users will use a foldable phone as they do their regular smartphone, picking it up hundreds of times a day, unfolding it sporadically and typing on its plastic screen, which may scratch quickly depending on the way it folds,” said Roberta Cozza, Gartner research director. “Through the next five years, we expect foldable phones to remain a niche product due to several manufacturing challenges. In addition to the surface of the screen, the price is a barrier despite we expect to decline with time.”
Understandably, pricing will be the biggest turn-off to many customers, including early adopters who have previously been willing to pay $1,000+ for flagship iPhone and Galaxy devices. Folding smartphones are in a completely different league with regards to pricing, with the Galaxy Fold retailing at $1,980. The Mate X is even more out of reach for even diehard early adopters: it’s priced at a staggering $2,600.
Prices for these devices will need to come down dramatically before widespread adoption is achievable. In addition, manufacturers will have to over the next few years find ways to help minimize the display crease that can be seen in these first-generation devices.
In other news, Gartner says that the overall global smartphone market will shrink again in 2019 to 1.8 billion units. This would represent a 0.5 percent decline compared to 2018’s total. However, the research firm is projecting that overall global shipments will grow by just over 1 percent in 2020.