The Rise of Foldable Smartphones Amidst the Fierce Battle in China and Beyond: 64% YoY Growth in Q1 2023

With each passing day, we inch closer to a future where foldable smartphones seamlessly blend elegance, functionality, and cutting-edge innovation. As we embark on this exciting journey, one question remains: Are you ready to unfold the future?

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A few decades ago, nobody could have imagined that smartphones in the future would not only simplify our daily tasks with astonishing built-in features, but also mesmerise us with their stunning designs. But, the age of foldable smartphones has arrived … These futuristic devices, capable of gracefully folding like a book and sliding effortlessly into your pocket, have taken the world by storm with their awe-inspiring designs. As a result, the demand for foldable smartphones has skyrocketed, leaving tech enthusiasts and industry experts in awe. According to the latest report by Counterpoint Research, the global foldable smartphone market increased 64% YoY in Q1 2023, to reach 2.5 million units.

This growth in the foldable smartphone market becomes even more noteworthy when you consider that it occurred amidst a 14.2% decline in the overall global smartphone market during the same period. This surge in demand has swept across the globe, captivating consumers in China, North America, and Western Europe, leaving no doubt that the foldable smartphone revolution is here to stay.

Let’s dig deeper into the growth of the foldable smartphone market by top regions and top manufacturers.

Foldable Smartphone Sales Growth by Region

When it comes to growth, India has a knack for rising to the top, and the world of foldable smartphones is no exception. Surprisingly, India, along with China and the Middle East and Africa, plays a pivotal role in driving the global foldable market.

In Q1 2023, India witnessed a staggering 967% YoY in the foldable market – an astounding feat. However, it’s important to note that this growth appears monumental because only a handful of smartphone manufacturers introduced their foldable devices in the country in 2022.

The robust expansion of the global foldable market owes much of its success to the flourishing Chinese market. Despite a decline of approximately 8% YoY in the Chinese smartphone market during Q1 2023, the foldable segment continued to surge, achieving an impressive 117% YoY growth with 1.08 million units sold.

With a keen focus on the Chinese smartphone market, Research Analyst Woojin Son provides valuable insights into its growth. The grand unveilings of foldable devices such as the OPPO N2 and N2 Flip have taken the Chinese market by storm. These extravagant launch events consistently ignite excitement within the market, capturing the attention of consumers and industry experts.

The combination of innovative devices and the enthusiasm generated by these launch events has truly transformed the Chinese market into a hotbed for foldable smartphones, setting the stage for a new era of technological advancements.

China’s Foldable Smartphone Market

When it comes to the remarkable yearly surge in foldable smartphone shipments during Q1 2023, one region stands out prominently, according to Counterpoint Research – China.

In the thrilling battleground of China’s foldable smartphone market, three tech titans, Huawei, Oppo, and Samsung, engaged in a fierce clash for supremacy during the first quarter of 2023. However, what truly caught everyone off guard was Huawei’s stunning fall from grace. Huawei’s market share plummeted from an impressive 57% in Q1 2022 to a mere 27% in Q1 2023 – a jaw-dropping decline of over 50% YoY.

Oppo and Samsung emerged as the victor in this battle, capitalizing on Huawei’s loss. Oppo’s share in China’s foldable smartphone market increased from 18% in Q1 2022 to 27% in Q1 2023, securing the second spot. This growth can be attributed to the success of devices like the N2 Flip and N2, which were launched towards the end of 2022. Notably, Oppo’s clamshell-type foldable, the N2 Flip, made a significant contribution to the increased sales of such products in China, surpassing Huawei’s Pocket S.

Samsung, renowned as the world’s largest manufacturer of foldable smartphones, left an indelible mark on the Chinese market. From a modest 6% market share in Q1 2022, the Korean giant underwent a meteoric rise, solidifying its position by commanding an impressive 26% market share in Q1 2023.

With a strategic focus on the Chinese and MEA markets, Samsung introduced the W23 and W23 Flip, tailored variants of the Z Fold 4 and Z Flip 4, respectively. This calculated move catapulted the company to rapid expansion within China’s foldable smartphone landscape during Q1 2023.

The growth trajectory of Xiaomi in the foldable smartphone market in China has taken a surprising turn, drawing significant attention. Once hailed as the industry’s fastest-growing OEM, Xiaomi is now grappling with the task of maintaining its sales growth in key markets such as China, India, and globally.

Xiaomi recorded a notable 22.9% YoY decline in its shipments in China’s overall smartphone market during Q1 2023. Similarly, on a global scale, The company experienced a significant 23.5% YoY decline in smartphone shipments during the same period. This was the highest among the top five players. In India, Xiaomi faced an even more substantial decline, with a nearly 44% YoY drop in smartphone shipments in Q1 2023.

The above figures shed light on the challenges faced by Xiaomi as it navigates through intensifying competition and evolving consumer preferences across these crucial markets. As Xiaomi strives to address these challenges, it will need to adopt strategic measures to regain momentum and re-establish its growth trajectory in the highly competitive foldable smartphone market.

Xiaomi made a splash in the foldable smartphone market with the successful debut of the Mix Fold 2 in 2022. The second-generation foldable device was highly regarded as a strong contender and a viable alternative to Samsung’s Galaxy Z Fold4. The company is preparing to launch the Mix Fold 3 sometime in August. However, there seems to be a catch, as recent leaks from prominent leaker Ice Universe suggest that the Mix Fold 3 will not be sold globally and will remain exclusive to Xiaomi’s home market of China.

While all Android smartphone OEMs are leaving no stone unturned to make the of this rapidly expanding foldable market, Apple seems to be strategically late to the party. The Cupertino giant is expected to launch its first foldable iPhone in 2024 or 2025.

The absence of Apple in short-term forecasts has certainly caught the attention of industry observers, igniting curiosity about the company’s plans. However, expert analyst Park provides insightful perspectives that shed light on potential future possibilities for Apple.

However, since overall consumer response to foldable phones is improving and Apple will be releasing non-phone foldable products soon, the brand’s participation in the foldable smartphone market is likely to occur after 2025, Senior Analyst Jene Park said.

Looking ahead to 2023, the foldable smartphone market is poised for significant developments. According to Senior Analyst Jene Park, several key trends will shape the industry landscape. First and foremost, there will be intensified competition among OEMs on a global scale. This intensified competition will stem from OEMs adopting more aggressive strategies to expand their target markets.

In addition, price competition in the foldable smartphone market is expected to heat up. Manufacturers will vie to offer compelling features and attractive pricing to capture the attention of consumers, resulting in a more competitive pricing environment.

Another noteworthy trend is the anticipated increase in sales volume of clamshell-type foldable smartphones. This growth will be driven by the introduction of various new products in this category. OEMs will launch innovative clamshell models, catering to consumer demands for this specific form factor.

Furthermore, the Chinese foldable market is forecasted to continue its expansion throughout 2023. Chinese consumers have recognized foldable smartphones as premium devices, leading to an increased demand for these cutting-edge products. The market growth will be further fueled by the consistent stream of new product launches in China, ensuring a steady supply of fresh options for consumers.

As we witness the remarkable growth and transformation of the foldable smartphone market, one can’t help but wonder: What lies ahead for these groundbreaking devices? Will foldable smartphones become the new norm, replacing traditional designs? How will consumer preferences and technological advancements shape the future of this mesmerizing industry?


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