Honor Magic Vs is on display at Honor’s stand at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. The nearly $1,700 device is Honor’s attempt to challenge Samsung in the foldable smartphone market.
Arjun Karpal | CNBC
It seems like the year of foldables as a term to describe smartphones with foldable screens.
Many foldable devices have hit the international market this year as electronics giants, particularly in China, try to catch up to Samsung in the smartphone category it pioneered.
Analysts have questioned just how big the foldable category will really get, given the device’s high price tag and lack of a clear use at the moment.
“They’re all nice and everyone’s excited, but do you really know how big the market is?” Ben Wood, CCS Insight’s head of research, told CNBC via email. .
“We’re just at the beginning of a folding narrative journey, and it’s far from a mature category.”
Foldable enters the global market
Samsung really created a smartphone in this category by launching its first foldable phone in 2019. These devices have a single screen that can be bent, allowing users to greatly expand the viewing surface of the device they can carry in their pocket.
Since the Samsung Galaxy Fold was announced about four years ago, the South Korean giant has launched many other devices. The Galaxy Fold series opens outward like a book, while the Galaxy Z Flip opens like a traditional flip phone.
According to Canalys, Samsung will account for 80% of global foldable product shipments in 2022. The market expects foldable smartphone shipments to reach 30 million units in 2023, up 111% year-on-year.
Still, these devices account for just over 1% of the total smartphone market, according to IDC data.
This potential growth is what other companies are chasing as they try to catch up with Samsung.
Last month, Chinese vendor Oppo Honor, a spin-off brand from Find N2 Flip and Huawei, has announced Magic Vs for the international market.
Lenovo CEO Yuanqing Yang told CNBC Wednesday that Motorola plans to unveil a new version of its foldable Razr device later this year. Lenovo owns Motorola.
It may be an iPad instead of a smartphone, but speculation is growing that Apple is gearing up for the launch of a foldable device.
Foldables have lost the ‘wow factor’
Honor CEO George Zhao said in an interview with CNBC last week that foldable devices still have many challenges, especially battery life, the weight of the device and its high cost. Over $1,600.
But the pressure on electronics makers to launch foldable products comes from these brands’ desire to push into the premium end of the smartphone market. samsung and apple dominate greatly.
According to Canalys data, from 11% in 2020 to 2022, high-end smartphones (smartphones priced above $800) accounted for 18% of the total handset market.
“When you look at foldable devices, they are connected to more devices. [an] We try to improve our brand image by showcasing our innovations rather than mass-selling,” Canalys analyst Runar Bjørhovde told CNBC in an email.
Bjørhovde said the “wow factor” for consumers may be waning now that Samsung has had foldable smartphones on the market for several years, and eventually rivals said it needed to lower prices to compete with South Korea. electronics giant.
Foldable phones “are no longer surprising or unexpected, in large part because of Samsung’s big marketing investments in standardizing form factors,” analysts said.
He added that revolutionizing foldable devices is next to impossible and will move forward.
“Development is focused on incremental evolution and lowering price points, which will be key for vendors to challenge Samsung’s dominance,” said Bjørhovde. .