Driven by Samsung, Microsoft, foldable smartphones space reached 8.9 million units in sales in 2021 and it is predicted to increase by a Compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 53 per cent between 2021 and 2024 to exceed 30 million in 2024, according to a forecast by research firm Canalys.
The foldable segment grew 148 per cent year on year despite high price tags, while the overall smartphone market only grew 12 per cent. “The key catalyst for foldable smartphones has been the booming use of large-screen devices during the pandemic,” said Runar Bjørhovde, Research Analyst at Canalys.
According to Canalys, foldable form factors present vital differentiation for vendors to stimulate smartphone sales. They are especially appealing to early adopters and high-end users. “Android vendors are under big pressure in the premium segment, as shipments of US$800-plus smartphones have fallen 18 per cent below the 2019 level while iOS shipments have grown 68 per cent over the same time,” said Toby Zhu, Canalys Analyst.
The research firm believes that Google and the major Android device vendors must double down on their investments in differentiated hardware and state-of-the-art user experiences to keep appealing to high-end customers. “Fortunately, the supply chain ecosystem for foldable devices has developed rapidly over the last few years, thanks to Samsung. While there are an increasing number of suppliers for foldable displays, hinges and other key components, device vendors are also highlighting innovative engineering solutions and product designs for a better user experience while constantly pushing down prices,” noted Amber Liu, another Research Analyst at Canalys.
In addition to major hardware design innovations, the real battlefield for device vendors is the software user experience, which as per Canalys, “requires substantial investment in the user interface and capable software as the foldable app ecosystem is still far from optimal.”
“We expect this year will see many new foldable device launches as vendors continue reducing thickness, weight and price, which will be vital for mass-market adoption. The leading players will start to flex their muscles in the ecosystem to leapfrog their competitors with advanced and differentiated experiences,” added Liu.
In another report earlier, Canalys said that India’s smartphone market saw 12 per cent growth in 2021, reaching record 162 million shipments. The winner in the fourth quarter of 2021 was Realme, which climbed the number three spot in the overall list of smartphones vendors. It was also the only player which saw positive annual growth in the top five list, while the others all saw a decline.