Boston, Toronto, London, New Delhi, Beijing, Taipei, Seoul – April 20, 2021
The foldables smartphone segment has been gathering momentum, with notable launches and announcements over the past quarter garnering significant attention. Although the market grew significantly over the past year, it was from a small base and is expected to remain niche through the medium term.
According to Counterpoint Research’s Q1 2021 Foldable Smartphone Shipment Forecast, foldable smartphone shipment share will remain in low single digits for the foreseeable future as the industry experiments with various form factors, designs, materials and operating system variants. Foldables accounted for just a fraction of a percent of last year’s 1.3 billion total addressable market in smartphones and is expected to reach just 1.2% by 2022.
Counterpoint Research Senior Analyst Jene Park, who leads foldables research, notes, “Samsung has led the segment in terms of design, marketing, and shipments, dominating last year with over 80% share of the foldables market. The company also had the strongest lineup, with various models and variants including a second gen flagship. This year, however, Samsung is facing more competition, with the release of Huawei’s critically lauded Mate X2, Xiaomi’s Mi Mix Fold, and announcements from vivo, OPPO, and TCL hinting at 2021 launches.”
Counterpoint remains bullish on foldables long term but remains conservative on overall shipment growth through end-2022. Mr. Park states, “Three key things must happen before we see any significant volumes: 1) Significant price declines with flagships at around $1000 – $1500; 2) more vendor participants – we’re starting to see this now; and 3) Apple’s entry into the space. The latter is an important milestone as Apple is known to be extra cautious on costs and component sourcing. A foldable iPhone is a nod to the robustness of the technology, and we expect this to be towards end-2022 or most likely 2023.”
In the meantime, Counterpoint expects to see various different form factors come to market, with OPPO and TCL’s recent announcements opening the possibility of rollable and hybrid “Fold ‘n Roll” designs being available.
Commenting on the recent developments, Counterpoint’s Vice President of Research Neil Shah observes, “TCL’s teaser on their Fold ‘n Roll design is especially interesting from an engineering standpoint because of the technology needed to create a truly robust commercial model. It makes sense TCL is leading this as they can experiment more being a vertically integrated player. LG Display, another major supplier, will also be looking for suitors for its cutting edge foldable/rollable portfolio considering key client LG Mobile has thrown in the towel for its smartphone business. Ultimately, these display makers will have to find a way to scale the product to bring down device prices to meaningful sub-$1000 levels to take it mainstream. Additionally, production yield for these innovative displays will be critical for suppliers to achieve economies of scale.”
A big part of reaching scale is also having overall industry support – without it, growth strategies get increasingly complicated for OEMs. Mr. Shah highlights, “Smartphone makers, along with Google and the Android developer ecosystem will need to optimize software and applications for the new form-factors, and this is where we could see a lot of fragmentation early on. Reducing this risk to quickly to reach scale will require Apple and Samsung to drive a form factor as usually then it becomes industry standard.”
Counterpoint Technology Market Research is a global research firm specializing in products in the TMT (technology, media and telecom) industry. It services major technology and financial firms with a mix of monthly reports, customized projects and detailed analyses of the mobile and technology markets. Its key analysts are seasoned experts in the high-tech industry.