China’s Foldables Sell-through Up ~50% in Q1 2024 as Book-type Sales Nearly Double

  • China’s Q1 2024 foldable smartphone sell-through grew 48% YoY.
  • The key driver was book-type foldables which almost doubled in shipments, while flip type remained muted.
  • Thinner, lighter iterations and more use cases have boosted consumer demand for book-type foldables.
  • We expect China’s foldables market to continue with healthy growth.

China’s foldable smartphone sell-through climbed 48% YoY in Q1 2024, continuing its robust growth momentum, while the overall smartphone market rose only 2% YoY during the quarter. Foldable smartphones have been a key strategic focus for Chinese smartphone OEMs since early 2020. These OEMs hope that the new form factor will help revive the otherwise stagnant smartphone market and expand their penetration in the premium segment.

Additionally, book-type foldable shipments grew 91% YoY in Q1 2024 while those of clamshell-type foldables slipped 1% YoY, according to Counterpoint’s Weekly Data Tracker Service. There was a significant surge in book-type foldables as consumers have started to favor this form factor over the clamshell type because of the wider range of use cases they offer. The large screen allows for better multitasking capabilities, enabling users to run multiple apps at the same time and switch back and forth more efficiently. The almost tablet-like experience when unfolded makes them ideal for work-related tasks such as editing documents and managing emails, as well as for entertainment activities like watching videos and gaming. Additionally, after many generations, book-type foldables have also become thinner and lighter, making them more appealing to consumers.

Huawei has a strong foothold in China’s foldables market and was one of the first OEMs to launch foldable products. In Q1 2024, Huawei led sales in both book-type and clamshell-type foldables, thus marking a resurgence. The increase in Huawei’s market share was primarily due to the introduction of 5G-enabled foldables for the first time, with the book-type Mate X5 and the clamshell-type Pocket 2 becoming bestsellers immediately upon release. Both foldables are powered by Huawei’s latest self-developed 5G-enabled SoC, the same chipset that drives the Mate 60 series.

The foldable market has made significant strides in enhancing both software and hardware. Recent launches, in particular, have showcased notable advancements. The HONOR Magic Vs2 claims to be one of the lightest book-type foldable in the market, weighing only 229g, on par with that of bar phones. The phone is also quite slim, measuring 5.1mm when unfolded and 10.7 mm when folded. The light weight is due to the aerospace-grace magnesium alloy frame and the Luban titanium hinge. The Magic Vs2 also has a fair price value, starting at RMB 6,999 (around $950).

Apart from the hardware, OEMs have also focused on enhancing the software to improve user experience. Huawei showcased some outstanding software optimizations in its latest book-type foldable, the Mate X5. Huawei’s pioneering air gesture control feature is also being incorporated in the Mate X5 and can be used in both the inner and outer displays. Users can use hand gestures to navigate content, watch videos and even take screenshots without touching the screen. Additionally, Huawei has collaborated with software partners to build a foldable ecosystem, deeply customizing many leading apps on the market to better suit foldables.

For 2024, Chinese OEMs have adopted a more cautious approach with regard to launching new foldables and will be focusing more on profitability than aggressive expansion. Evidently, the number of new launches has declined in Q1 2024 compared to previous quarters. Nonetheless, we expect the foldable market to remain a bright spot in China’s smartphone market, maintaining robust growth.

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