Pooja Yadav

What's getting smartphone buyers to flip and fold?

Samsung, Vivo, OPPO, Huawei have launched foldable phones in India.

Recently, Samsung launched Z Fold4 and Flip4 smartphones in the Indian market. Flip and fold are the new product innovations in the smartphone category. Consumers in the premium segment, are turning to flip and fold phones to make a lifestyle statement.

Foldable phones have always had multiple use cases for people on-the-go, like multi-tasking. But will this new foldable phone era, last for a long time? Is it truly the beginning of a new era?

"In the era of touch screens, a foldable is a nifty solution for packing a larger video experience into a smaller space. So, to me it’s a new beginning," comments Ritesh Ghosal, a solopreneur and startup enthusiast.

As per CyberMedia Research (CMR), the foldable phone market in India is poised to grow at 64% CAGR, till 2026. This translates to a 20-fold growth in foldable smartphone shipments.

Prabhu Ram, head, Industry Intelligence Group at CMR, states, "Foldables are definitely the future. Samsung’s perseverance and persistence with foldable innovations across successive generations, have provided the brand with a strong head start over the competition. "

"The foldable phones represent an engineering marvel, with continuous R&D focussed on enabling a durable foldable glass display, a strong and smooth hinge mechanism, etc. Foldables have reached an inflection point, in terms of shipments as well as consumer acceptance."

Ram adds, "As we move forward, more innovations will come forth that will contribute to further mainstreaming of the foldable device. Other smartphone brands are also looking to enter the market, with their own foldables over the next few years. Flip and fold phones are the future. Over the short-term, both conventional rectangular slabs and foldables, will co-exist."

With Samsung hitting the market with foldable phones, China based companies like Oppo, Vivo, are also gearing up for new launches. As per media reports, the brand aims to raise the ratio of foldable phones to half of its total smartphone sales by 2025.

What's getting smartphone buyers to flip and fold?

According to CMR’s 'Unfold the Future Survey 2021', 87% of Samsung users stated that they are interested in upgrading to a foldable phone; 67% of Apple iPhone owners indicated their interest in factoring a foldable phone as their next smartphone purchase; 76% of OnePlus users and 52% of Vivo users were open to purchasing a foldable.

Do foldable phones make more sense than regular smartphones?

Vivek Bhargava, co-founder, ProfitWheel, who uses a foldable smartphone, shares, "This new innovation is unbelievable. The foldable phone is a very functional device. I’ve used four versions of the foldable phone."

Bhargava bought his first foldable phone - Samsung Galaxy Fold - in 2019, much before the phone was officially launched in the country. He replaced his phone each time Samsung came up with a new foldable version. After using four generations of Samsung Fold, Bhargava comments, "Once you start using a foldable phone, it’s very difficult to go back to a regular phone."

Speaking about design aspects of foldable phones, Ghosal says, "A foldable phone, if not opened up, is as good as any other phone, once opened up, it gives a great video experience. Today, with great data connectivity at very low prices, plus access to proliferating content like OTT services, video consumption is almost as big a reason to carry a phone as is connectivity. So, if people are able to afford a foldable, I would say it’s a better choice."

What's getting smartphone buyers to flip and fold?

Even though foldable phones are the latest trend, the market in India is still quite niche. The foldable phone segment made its debut in India in 2019, with the launch of Samsung Galaxy Fold. Since then, Samsung has been working towards improving (perfecting) the quality and durability of these phones.

Other companies, like Oppo and Motorola, are also trying to build their clout in this market. Oppo launched its first foldable phone, Oppo Find N, in 2021 and Motorola launched its first fold phone Moto Razr in 2019. But neither of them were as successful as Samsung, because of their inferior display, battery life and price point.

Navkendar Singh, AVP- devices research, IDC, points out, "With the launch of foldable phones, consumers are seeing a freshness, in terms of functionality, convenience and how the phone looks, after a very long time. This trend of flip and fold phones is picking eyeballs, but for a market like India, the price is a hindrance right now, as far as mass adoption goes."

Flip and fold phones are unique, as the screen can be folded like a book. But, as Singh says, "The challenge for fold smartphones is: how to optimise the software and UI for bigger and smaller screens."

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