Samsung is slowly losing its tight grip on the world's shrinking foldable market

Samsung is slowly losing its tight grip on the world's shrinking foldable market
Remember when foldables were hailed as the mobile industry's future and pretty much the only hope the global smartphone market had to recover anytime soon after several consecutive quarters of worrying drops in sales?

While that could still happen... someday (perhaps once Apple finally throws its hat into the ring with an iPhone Fold), the formerly thriving product category is not doing so great at the moment, posting its own second year-on-year decline in quarterly shipments in a row.

Where did all that growth potential go?

According to Display Supply Chain Consultants (DSCC) CEO Ross Young on Twitter, 2.1 million foldable units were sold around the world between January and March 2023, compared to 2.22 million back in the first three months of last year.

That may not sound like a very troubling dip, especially compared to the 13 percent drop in all smartphone shipments reported for the same timeframe by other analytics companies, but DSCC estimated the foldable segment's aforementioned 2.22 million total of Q1 2022 represented an incredible increase of 571 percent (!!!) from Q1 2021.

It's staggering to see such a massive downswing taking place so suddenly, although things were of course far worse in Q4 2022, when sales took a hit of no less than 48 percent compared to Q3 2022 and 26 percent from Q4 2021.

While Samsung continues to lead the vendor chart with relative ease, its sales numbers are dropping like a rock, from over 1.6 million units during the opening quarter of last year to under 1 million in the January - March window of this year.

With 45 percent market share, the manufacturers of the very well-reviewed Galaxy Z Fold 4 and Z Flip 4 are witnessing a pretty concerning rise from Oppo, which now sits in second place (up from third back in Q1 2022) with a significant 21 percent slice of the global foldable pie.

What's on the horizon?

Speaking of specific models, it's definitely not surprising to see the Galaxy Z Flip 4 rank first in Q1 2023 popularity, but the Huawei Pocket S is the newest recipient of the segment's silver medal, closely followed by the Z Fold 4 in the bronze medal position and the Oppo Find N2 Flip in fourth place.

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What's important to note here is that the Z Flip 4's market-leading 27 percent share is way lower than the 47 percent commanded by the Galaxy Z Flip 3 a year ago, which is clearly not what Samsung expected to hear.


This might be another key reason why the world's largest smartphone manufacturer (and top foldable vendor) is reportedly planning to unveil and release the next-gen Galaxy Z Flip 5 and Z Fold 5 a little earlier than originally anticipated.

Of course, an extra two weeks or so of commercial availability may only be able to go so far in fending off Apple's upcoming iPhone 15 family, especially with the Galaxy Z Fold 5 set to so strongly resemble its not-so-successful predecessor and bring relatively few substantial upgrades to the table.

The Z Flip 5, meanwhile, is widely expected to massively enhance its own forerunner's cover screen real estate, although it remains to be seen how much of a difference that will make for prospective buyers with intensifying direct competition from brands like Motorola, Oppo, Vivo, and OnePlus.

It will also be very interesting to see what impact (if any) Google's first-ever Pixel Fold release will have on the industry and if the search giant can crack a global vendor top five with Huawei, Honor, and Xiaomi currently on it in addition to Samsung and Oppo.

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