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Foldables smartphones will expand to 18M units globally by 2022

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Foldables, which accounted for just a fraction of a percent of the 1.3 billion total addressable markets in smartphones last year, are expected to reach 1.2 percent (18 million units) by 2022, a new report said on Tuesday.

According to Counterpoint Research’s ‘Q1 2020 Foldable Smartphone Shipment Forecast’, foldable smartphone shipment share will remain in the low single digits for the foreseeable future as the industry experiments with various form factors, designs, materials, and operating system variants.

In the meantime, various different form factors will come to market, with OPPO and TCL’s recent announcements opening the possibility of rollable and hybrid “Fold ‘n Roll” designs being available.

“TCL’s teaser on their Fold ‘n Roll design is especially interesting from an engineering standpoint because of the technology needed to create a truly robust commercial model. It makes sense TCL is leading this as they can experiment more being a vertically integrated player,” said Neil Shah, Counterpoint’s vice president of research.

LG Display, another major supplier, will also be looking for suitors for its cutting edge foldable/rollable portfolio considering key client LG Mobile has thrown in the towel for its smartphone business.

“Ultimately, these display makers will have to find a way to scale the product to bring down device prices to meaningful sub-$1000 levels to take it mainstream. Additionally, production yield for these innovative displays will be critical for suppliers to achieve economies of scale,’ Shah explained.

Although the market grew significantly over the past year, it was from a small base and is expected to remain niche through the medium term.

Samsung has led the segment in terms of design, marketing, and shipments, dominating last year with over 80 per cent share of the foldables market.

“This year, however, Samsung is facing more competition, with the release of Huawei’s critically lauded Mate X2, Xiaomi’s Mi Mix Fold, and announcements from vivo, OPPO, and TCL hinting at 2021 launches,” said senior analyst Jene Park.

A big part of reaching scale is also having overall industry support and without it, growth strategies get increasingly complicated for OEMs.

“Smartphone makers, along with Google and the Android developer ecosystem will need to optimise software and applications for the new form-factors, and this is where we could see a lot of fragmentation early on,” said Shah.


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