Biz / Tech

Foldable smartphones a niche but rapidly growing trend

Zhu Shenshen
Smartphone vendors are expected to sell 2 million foldable models in China this year. They help Android brands to compete with Apple which hasn't issued any foldable models.
Zhu Shenshen

It may be time for serious consideration of buying a foldable smartphone as the model has become more functional and cheaper.

Foldable device market has turned into a target of smartphone brands, helping Android models compete with Apple in the premium market in China, where 2 million foldable models are expected to be sold this year.

Firms like Samsung and Vivo have improved screens, memory and storage, charging capacity and cameras in the latest foldable models released in the autumn of this year. They are betting on the current niche products becoming mainstream in the future.

Vivo has started sales of its new X-Fold+ products this month, only half a year after the debut of its first-generation foldable model. They feature design, charging and chip-level security improvements for dual screens, such as "aerospace-grade materials" for easy folding, fully charging in 35 minutes and support of wireless charging and customized Snapdragon processors.

"We've positioned it as a professional folding flagship, representing Vivo's confidence in the future development of the foldable device," said Huang Tao, the company's vice president.

Foldable smartphones a niche but rapidly growing trend
Ti Gong

Vivo launched a new foldable model with a price of 10,000 yuan (US$1,379).

The foldable model is a highlight in the tough environment of the Chinese smartphone market this year.

In 2022, China's foldable smartphone sales will surpass 2 million units with considerable potential growth in 2023. Comparatively, China's smartphone sales dropped 10 percent to 67.4 million units in the second quarter, according to researcher Canalys.

The foldable display market is proliferating with improved technology. Foldable screens will become a mainstream technology in 2022 or 2023, say researchers IHS Markit and Counterpoint Research.

Although it's a niche product now, foldable phones are popular ― the selling price in the market is usually 1,000 yuan (US$137.9) more than the phones' official prices. Some special-edition Vivo and Huawei models, with unique colors, are sold out rapidly.

Currently, Huawei, Samsung, OPPO, Vivo and Xiaomi have all launched foldable models. Apple hasn't released any foldable iPhones but researchers speculate that it will in 2024.

Foldable smartphones a niche but rapidly growing trend
Ti Gong

Samsung launched two foldable models specially for China Telecom users with prices up to 15,999 yuan, higher than the iPhone 14 Pro Max.

Most foldable models are sold for over 10,000 yuan, which is close to iPhone's high-end product line like iPhone 14 Pro (Max).

Also this week, Samsung will start selling two new foldable models, the W23 and W23 Flip, which are special editions exclusive to China Telecom. It shows the global smartphone giant's commitment to the domestic market.

The W23, with an upgraded memory capacity of 16 gigabytes and a 7.6-inch screen with a 120 Hz refresh rate, costs 15,999 yuan. The W23 Flip, with a smaller size and fashionable design, costs 9,999 yuan.

The higher refresh rate is suitable for gaming and eSports fans and has better display effects.

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