Foldable smartphones crawl to one percent of global market share

They’re on track for a whopping three percent in 2026 – well out of the mainstream, but growing faster

Cross “optimise site and/or app for folding smartphones” off your to-do list: analyst firm IDC says they’re not going to be mainstream devices by the year 2026.

“The biggest question today is whether foldables will become mainstream anytime soon? Unfortunately, the answer is no," said Nabila Popal, research director with IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker.

Popal’s remarks came after IDC projected 13.5 million folding smartphones will ship during 2022 – 1.1 percent of the total 1.352 billion smartphones expected the ship this year.

That meagre market share has taken three years to accrue: Samsung launched its first foldable, the Galaxy Fold in 2019.

IDC predicts compound annual growth of 38.7 percent across all foldables between 2021 and 2026, but even that impressive number will mean just 2.8 percent market share in the latter year.

The news isn’t all bad, because foldables will vastly exceed overall market growth of one percent compound annual growth in the regular smartphone market.

Popal thinks foldables could do better if they fall to around $400 – the sweet spot for mainstream affordability. But he doesn’t want it to happen.

“I strongly believe that is not a good move – especially not at the expense of quality and user experience,” he stated.

The analyst would prefer foldables to remain a niche and premium flagship device.

“Vendors should focus on improving user experience and building to increase confidence in the category and generate long-term growth,” he opined. “I believe foldables are the future of premium Android devices even if, as a whole, they are only expected to capture less than three percent of global volume by the end of our forecast period."

As premium handsets are the niche in which smartphone manufacturers can often make the fattest margins, Popal’s advice offers them a way to keep preserve profits by maintaining Samsung’s current positioning of foldables’ as a pricey status symbol.

Which may be why the likes of Microsoft, Oppo, Xiaomi, and Huawei all offer foldable phones.

Apple, which dominates the premium handset market, has shown no sign of interest in foldables but is already astoundingly profitable with its usual rounded rectangles. ®

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