Samsung is bending over backwards to establish its dominance in the foldable smartphone market, a segment that is still developing but growing rapidly. Four years after the launch of its first models, the Korean manufacturer announces, on Wednesday, August 10, the worldwide release of its fourth generation of devices, with, as for the previous ones, a compact version, called Galaxy Z Flip 4, and a extra – wide, Galaxy Z Fold 4.
“We created this segment in 2019 and it took”, appreciates François Hernandez, vice president of Samsung Electronics France in charge of mobility. Global sales of foldable smartphones quadrupled in 2021 to 10 million units. This segment can still grow by 73% in 2022, according to the research firm Counterpoint Research, while its colleague Strategy Analytics predicts the sale of 75 million units worldwide in 2025. A level that is, however, marginal considering the figure of 1.3 billion smartphones sold in world plan in 2021.
Inventor of the concept, with a prototype unveiled in 2009, Samsung crushes the competition. The South Korean has 99% of the French foldable smartphone market, but slightly less globally, around 80%, according to Counterpoint forecasts for the end of 2022. Its major rival, Apple, has not launched in this niche. South Korean LG cannot break through, as can Motorola, the American brand of Chinese Lenovo. As for its Chinese competitors, Huawei, Oppo or Xiaomi, they have retreated to their respective home markets since the US sanctions in 2019 against Chinese technology companies.
The design of this type of device, which differs from a classic smartphone, if only by the presence of a hinge between the two screens, which generates weaknesses in use, requires more research and development. and their mass production “requires a lot of industrial and logistical capacity”emphasizes François Hernandez to explain the time in advance for the Korean brand.
Samsung takes advantage of this competitive advantage to make its foldable machines, sold between 1,109 euros and 1,289 euros for the Z Flip 4 and between 1,799 euros and 2,159 euros for the Z Fold 4, a weapon to increase value. “In France, foldables represent 15% of our high-end smartphone sales. We intend to increase this share to 25%”let François Hernandez know, according to which “even at these price levels we know how to sell large volumes, like with the Galaxy S22”Samsung’s bestseller, “which is in the same price category”.
This increase in value makes it possible to counteract the erosion in the volume of the global smartphone market, which is expected to decrease by 3.5% in 2022, to 1.31 billion units, according to the firm IDC. In France, where Samsung says it sold six times more foldable devices in the first half of 2022 than at the same time last year, this impact on prices can be seen since the first lockdown in 2020, prompting the French to redirect some of their usual expenditure on leisure or outings for electronic devices. According to the firm GFK, the average price of a smartphone has increased in France from 417 euros in 2019 to 492 euros in the first half of 2022. Samsung says it is working with distribution chains to help with financing, increase subsidies and finally return its advanced smartphones more accessible to the public.
But the manufacturer is mainly counting on the features that these foldable screens promise to appeal to a wider audience. “Foldable devices not only bring a new design to smartphones, but also more screen real estate. This aspect is growing in importance as smartphone use cases expand, especially in media, entertainment and work.”, explains Jene Park, analyst at Counterpoint Research. Samsung has also taken care of the photographic and video capabilities of its two new devices to adapt them to the use of social networks.
A new laptop-like taskbar has been added to the Z Fold, with the ability to split the screen into three when unfolded, turning the device into a small computer with a 7.6-inch screen (about 18 centimeters). Collaboration with Meta (parent company of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp) and Google have been pressured to adapt their applications to these foldable screens. “We don’t want a gimmick effect because that would risk creating disappointment” and kill the market, recognizes François Hernandez. Hence Samsung’s desire to stay on expensive and high-end devices for now.