New report projects slow foldable smartphone market growth through 2027

New report projects slow foldable smartphone market growth through 2027
The one major bright spot in the deeply gloomy smartphone market last year is expected to continue shining in 2023 and beyond, according to the latest IDC report, but if you're looking forward to the day when foldables will break into the mainstream, it sounds like that time is still pretty distant.

Estimated at 14.2 million unit sales in 2022, the rapidly growing foldable category is projected to reach global shipments of 21.4 million copies this year, a number that can obviously be viewed as big or small depending on your perspective.

On one hand, 21.4 is 50 percent larger than 14.2, which is definitely not nothing at a point of overall mobile industry stagnation, but on the other hand, that's barely half of how many iPhone 13 series devices Apple sold during the last holiday season alone.

Of course, it's not entirely fair to make such a comparison... for several different reasons, but the point is the foldable market will probably not explode to attain mainstream levels of popularity anytime soon. In 2027, which is the farthest point in time covered by this new IDC forecast, foldable shipments should hit 48.1 million units, or 3.5 percent of all smartphones sold around the world.

That sounds like a drop in the ocean, but it will still surely contribute to the slow recovery of today's intensely struggling smartphone market as a whole. All in all, handset sales are expected to fall by 1.1 percent this year after taking an absolutely massive 11 percent hit in 2022, with the modest bounceback of the next few years leading to a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 2.6 percent through 2027.

In contrast, the foldable segment's CAGR between 2022 and 2027 should stand at 27.6 percent, which sounds great... until you remember this year's progress is projected at more than 50 percent and 2022's sales figures jumped by 75.5 percent from 2021.

In other words, the category's growth will slow down over the coming years, nonetheless drawing more and more brands to both flip and fold designs, with the intensifying competition likely to push prices to lower and lower levels and squeeze those currently hefty profit margins.

Today's forecast doesn't cover individual device manufacturers, mind you, but Samsung's supremacy is clearly unlikely to be threatened at any point in the near future, especially if Apple indeed has no plans to join the market with an iPhone Fold.

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