Are foldable phones the new trend?

Are foldable phones the new trend now? (Source – Shutterstock)

Are foldable phones making a comeback?

  • Global shipments of foldable phones projected to exceed 100 million by 2027.
  • Samsung leads the market with its new Galaxy devices, while Motorola and Google also introduce their own foldable phones.
  • Apple’s potential foldable iPhone remains speculative, with rumors suggesting a possible launch by 2025.

As we plunge further into the digital era, technological evolution continues to skyrocket, constantly redefining the scope of innovation. A remarkable phenomenon in recent years is the revival of foldable phones. This seemingly antiquated technology of the past is staging an impressive return, this time though, augmented by more innovative designs, sleek aesthetics, and advanced technology. The question we need to ask is: Are foldable phones truly making a comeback?

The projection for global shipments of foldable smartphones is anticipated to exceed the 100-million threshold by 2027, as reported by the latest Global Foldable Smartphone Tracker and Forecast by Counterpoint Research. The biggest contributors to this market share are Samsung and Apple.

Sharing his insight on the expected growth, Research Director Tom Kang stated, “at the moment, foldables remain niche. But it’s an important segment for brands looking to maintain leadership in innovation and a premium market presence.”

Kang further noted that Samsung and Chinese OEMs have been proactively driving this trend, particularly within their domestic markets. China emerged as the world’s largest market for foldables last year. One must make a mark there to gain ground in the foldable phone arena.

Samsung takes the lead with the latest foldable phones

In light of these findings, Samsung recently launched its latest foldable devices, the Galaxy Z Flip 5 and Z Fold 5. These next-generation gadgets with flexible screens, which include the popular Z Flip phone, were showcased along with water-resistant high-end tablets and Galaxy Watch smartwatches. The unveiling took place at an event in South Korea, the company’s home base, in conjunction with the release of the new Tab S9 Android tablet series and the Galaxy Watch 6, running on Google’s Wear OS software.

The Galaxy Z Flip 5 now boasts a substantially larger external cover screen that facilitates quick responses to messages, operates widgets, and functions as a viewfinder for selfies, courtesy of its dual 12-megapixel main cameras.

Samsung's foldable phones being powered by Qualcomm Technologies.

Qualcomm Technologies’ flagship Snapdragon® 8 Gen 2 Mobile Platform for Galaxy. (Source – Qualcomm)

Moreover, the internal folding screen now features an innovative water-drop hinge design that minimizes the crease in the middle of the display and allows the phone to fold completely flush, leaving no gaps on the sides when shut. According to the company, this design makes the phone 25% more durable.

On the flip side, the Z Fold 5, Samsung’s trailblazing phone-tablet hybrid, has also significantly improved in its fifth iteration. The Z Fold 5 utilizes the same enhanced water-drop hinge design as the Flip, enabling it to close seamlessly without leaving gaps. The internal screen is brighter, 25% more resilient, and compatible with a stylus. The elite device is slimmer, lighter, and quicker than its predecessor, and it comes equipped with five cameras on the back, front, and internal screen.

In a related announcement, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. revealed that its top-of-the-line Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 Mobile Platform powers the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold5 and Galaxy Z Flip5 and the latest Galaxy Tab S9 Series. The Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy sets a new benchmark for connected computing, offering groundbreaking AI experiences, desktop-quality gaming features, professional-grade photography, among other features, for a global consumer base.

Samsung’s new Galaxy devices are equipped with Qualcomm’s fastest, most advanced AI Engine, offering groundbreaking AI integration across the platform. The Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy also includes an upgraded Qualcomm Hexagon Processor, enabling micro tile inferencing to accelerate complex AI models for improved AI performance, and the latest Qualcomm Sensing Hub with dual AI processors for ultra-low power AI experiences.

Other players in the foldable market

Motorola recently announced the Razr Plus, providing an average flagship phone experience, which is considered a win for Motorola. There’s also the US$1,799 Google Pixel Fold, which has begun shipping to customers.

In the wake of these developments, one might wonder about Apple’s strategy. Will there be an Apple Fold Air? Apple Fold Plus? Apple Flip? First and foremost, Apple typically only unveils products when they’re ready for market. Notable exceptions like the AirPower wireless charging pad exist, but Apple has refrained from confirming whether they’re developing a foldable iPhone or verifying any rumors.

In line with its typical strategy, Apple often markets products as solutions to existing problems, emphasizing their quality and innovation. So, if Apple were to launch a foldable iPhone, which problem would it aim to solve? Could it replace the iPhone 13 Mini by providing a larger screen that still fits comfortably in your pocket? Could it be more akin to a folding iPad Mini, effectively making it the size of the iPhone 13 Pro Max when closed? Or could we see a completely new design? How about an iPhone where the screen unrolls like a pull-down window shade? This is where rumors begin to come into play.

Renowned analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, known for his accuracy in predicting Apple trends, reportedly stated, as per MacRumors, that “Apple will likely launch a foldable iPhone with an 8-inch QHD Plus flexible OLED display in 2023.” He later revised this forecast in a tweet, suggesting it might be as late as 2025 before we see a foldable screen device from Apple. It’s also worth noting that Kuo made this statement on April 1, raising the possibility that it was just an April Fools’ joke.

A Twitter user expects Apple to launch its foldable phones as soon as 2024.

A Twitter user, @mingchikuo, expects Apple to launch a foldable iPhone as soon as 2024. (Source – Twitter)

However, Kuo is among the most reliable sources regarding Apple rumors. If his predictions are accurate, we could see a foldable iPhone by 2025, roughly the size of an iPad Mini that folds in half. Should Apple develop a foldable iPhone, the company would likely innovate the design to minimize the components and mechanisms involved, thereby reducing the chances of the device failing due to breakage.