Samsung is the only company that has launched foldable smartphones globally and has had some form of success. Since 2019, the company has launched four foldable phones with two different designs, and the Galaxy Z Fold 2 is often termed as the best foldable smartphone. While Samsung is far ahead of other firms in the foldable space, its success in the future will depend a lot on Apple.
Out of 1.5 billion smartphones that are sold annually worldwide, Samsung makes 300 million of them. When it comes to foldable phones, though, the company sold just 500,000 units in 2019 and had hoped to sell at least 4.5 million units in 2020. But the actual numbers were just 60% of the original target. While Samsung blames a lot of it on the ongoing COVID-19 situation, lower sales can also be attributed to sky-high prices of foldable phones. A lot of consumers also see foldable phones as experimental devices that may or may not succeed.
Samsung’s foldable phones haven’t been as successful as everyone had hoped
According to a report from South Korea, smartphone parts suppliers and industry insiders had hoped that Samsung’s foldable devices would bring breakthrough innovations and fuel the industry’s growth. Some of them now think that foldable smartphones do not offer enough utility, at least for their extremely high pricing. According to them, they may not be the breakthrough devices everyone was hoping for, and that Samsung needs to do better by making foldable devices more useful and accessible.
Since Samsung has decided not to release a Galaxy Note device this year, the company will depend a lot on its two upcoming foldable devices: Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Galaxy Z Flip 3. But due to their high prices, they may not match the sales of the Galaxy Note series. The Galaxy S21 series received a good response in Q1, and analysts expect a total annual sales of around 30 million units. While the numbers are higher than the Galaxy S20 (mid-20 million), they are not as high as the sales of older Galaxy S devices, which usually reached 35 million units every year.
Apple’s entry into the foldable space will help Samsung a lot
With Apple dominating the high-end segment and Chinese firms chewing away Samsung’s market share in the low-end and mid-range segments, the South Korean firm needs to do something groundbreaking in the foldable segment. While it can bring down the prices to increase sales, the move will hurt profitability. Industry insiders expect that the sales of foldable phones will rise if Apple enters the segment with its foldable iPhone.
Right now, Apple is reportedly testing prototypes of foldable display panels, and it doesn’t even have a working handset yet. If rumors are to be believed, the Cupertino-based tech giant has worked on concepts similar to the Galaxy Z Flip and the Galaxy Z Fold 2 and is leaning towards a design that opens up the screen to a size that is similar to the 6.7-inch iPhone 12 Pro Max. However, nothing has been finalized yet, and it could take at least two years before we see a foldable iPhone.
Apple has all the marketing might and the laser focus needed to popularize the foldable form factor. It can bring in the developers and third-party brands to create a whole new ecosystem around foldable phones. And when the company does that sometime in the future, Samsung might finally see a meteoric rise in the sale of its own foldable devices.