Foldable Phone Shipments Show Modest Growth, Facing Challenges Ahead

Shipment of foldable phones is anticipated to grow to approximately 17.7 million units, representing an 11 percent increase, TrendForce said.
Share of foldable smartphone vendors 2024Global shipments of foldable phones reached 15.9 million units in 2023, showing 25 percent year-on-year increase.

In 2023, the number of foldable phones constitutes about 1.4 percent of the overall smartphone market. In 2024, the number of foldable phones will be about 1.4 percent of the overall smartphone market.

The sluggish growth in foldable phones is attributed to two primary factors. Firstly, consumer retention is low due to persistent maintenance issues faced by first-time users, eroding confidence in the product.

Consequently, many users opt for conventional high-end smartphones when considering replacements. Secondly, the current price points of foldable phones haven’t yet reached the optimal level for consumers, posing a challenge in meeting sales targets solely based on pricing.

TrendForce emphasizes that the future trajectory of the foldable smartphone market hinges on cost optimization. Critical components like Ultra-Thin Glass (UTG) and hinges could witness mass production following standardization, driving down costs significantly.

Furthermore, an uptick in foldable panel shipments by Chinese manufacturers, offering cost advantages over Korean suppliers, is expected to further reduce foldable phone prices, thereby enhancing market penetration rates.

Samsung Faces Stiff Competition; Huawei Makes Strides

Samsung maintains its dominance despite experiencing a decline in market share from 80 percent in 2022 to under 70 percent in 2023, while Huawei’s shipments have surged to 12 percent. Other brands such as Xiaomi, Oppo, and Vivo have retained shares below 10 percent.

Looking ahead to 2024, Samsung aims to sustain its foldable phone market share at around 60 percent, in line with its 2023 target.

Huawei is aggressively expanding its foldable phone shipments, eyeing a market share exceeding 20 percent.

Interestingly, Oppo and Vivo are reconsidering their plans to launch smaller, vertically folding devices this year due to concerns over high costs impacting profitability. Instead, they are redirecting efforts toward larger, horizontally folding models. In contrast, Huawei is poised to unveil a 5G-enabled small vertical folding device, while Honor is expected to debut in the compact foldable sector, intensifying competition.

Despite several global smartphone brands venturing into foldable phones, Apple remains absent, with no formal announcement regarding its plans for such devices. While rumors suggest Apple is exploring essential components for foldable devices, including panel and hinge samples and tests, TrendForce highlights the uncertainty surrounding Apple’s potential entry into the foldable phone market. Analysts anticipate that Apple’s participation could significantly stimulate market growth.