Samsung is set to be the ‘gold standard’ in the global foldable smartphone market, with device shipments from all vendors set to rise next year by 66.6 per cent year-on-year, to 13.5 million.
This is according to research firm IDC, which said the market will continue to grow over the next four years, reaching 41.5 million shipments by 2026 and pegged the five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) from 2021 to 2026 at 38.7 per cent.
Leading the charge in the market is Samsung with its Flip and Fold line-up, with IDC claiming that the devices are set to outperform older models and bring more attention towards the premium technology compared to non-foldable smartphones.
"The recent launch of the Galaxy Z Flip 4 and Fold 4 will once again shine a spotlight on the entire category as Samsung continues to be the gold standard for foldable devices in the market," said Anthony Scarsella, research manager with IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker.
"The new launches from Samsung have brought incremental but critical improvements over their predecessors. The success of these devices should be a strong indicator of how foldables will evolve and capture consumers moving forward.
"While the price remains a pain point for consumers, the $999 starting price may be accepted by consumers given that most consumer goods have seen price increases due to inflation in 2022."
However, foldables pale in comparison to the overall smartphone market, which IDC expects to ship 1.4 billion units in 2026, a five-year CAGR of 1 per cent.
Nablia Popal, research director with IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, said not to expect the devices to reach the mainstream anytime soon.
"To me, mainstream means volume, and volume is dominated by cheaper, sub-$400 phones,” she said. “While it may be tempting for vendors to swoop in with lower selling prices to generate an initial boost in sales, I strongly believe that is not a good move – especially not at the expense of quality and user experience.
“Foldables should remain a niche and premium flagship device. Instead, vendors should focus on improving user experience and building to increase confidence in the category and generate long-term growth.
“I believe foldables are the future of premium Android devices even if, as a whole, they are only expected to capture less than 3 per cent of global volume by the end of our forecast period."