“Globally, Samsung reportedly sold about eight million foldable phones last year and is expected to double that number by 2022,” said Chris Jager, shopping expert at comparison site Finder.
“To put that number into perspective, total phone sales in 2021 were about 1.5 billion. So it’s still a drop in the ocean compared to conventional handsets.”
Telsyte’s market research suggests that foldable devices accounted for about 10 percent of Samsung Australia’s smartphone sales in the second half of 2021. That would be equivalent to about 162,000 units for half.
An obvious barrier for most people is the price. The Flip4 starts at $1500 and the Fold4 $2500. This isn’t necessarily much more than the highest of the high-end iPhone Pros or Galaxy S Ultras, but combined with the unfamiliar form factor, it can be a tough ask.
You can get the phones on plans from the major telcos, but the bare minimum you pay for a combined Flip4 and cellular plan is $100 per month for 24 months. For the Z Fold4, it’s more like $150 per month.
Another bottleneck is software; potential buyers aren’t convinced that any app will work well with the unconventional screen sizes.
“The Galaxy Z range still needs a great, must-have application, but there are definitely glimmers of potential,” said Jager.
“As the foldable market grows, you can expect more major developers to invest in dedicated apps.”
The phones have been getting better reviews since the original Fold received lukewarm responses in 2019, and Samsung has also been known to offer big discounts to staff at stores like JB Hi-fi, effectively offering the new and improved devices to people who are likely to recommend phones to others.
Anisha Bhatia, senior analyst at GlobalData, said Samsung had become increasingly stronger in foldables.
“Samsung is working on its fourth generation of foldable phones, with solid improvements in each iteration and an effort to make the pricing attractive to consumers,” she said.
“The Z Flip4 is more for the same price. The Flip series has already pushed foldable phones onto the mainstream stage, and [pre-order offers] will only benefit consumer adoption.”
Indeed, Samsung has once again provided some strong incentives to pre-order foldable phones this year. Any pre-order before August 31 comes with a free storage upgrade (so if you pay the price for a 128GB phone, say, you’ll get the 256GB model), then there are extra incentives with every major telco.
Ordering from Telstra gets customers a free Galaxy Watch 5 worth up to $649, and Optus is giving away Samsung tablets worth $529. Meanwhile, Vodafone is throwing in a $160 wireless charger, as well as up to $700 bonus credit as you trade in your old (but not too old) phone.
“Phones with foldable screens continue to whet consumers’ appetites in a stagnant smartphone market,” said Bhatia, noting that the only real competitor to Samsung’s phones was Lenovo’s Motorola Razer, which is significantly less powerful.
“Apple is completely absent from this segment and Huawei’s smartphone problems have forced it to take a step back. Oppo, Vivo and Xiaomi have barely scratched the surface of this market. With practically no viable competitor, this category is wide open for Samsung to shape. ”
The company has fixed its hardware kinks and shows promise in software support. It makes strong pitches for both trendsetters and power users, and increases the visibility of its foldable offering. The only thing that remains to be determined is whether ordinary users will actually find a utility in folding phones.
Unsurprisingly, Samsung Australia thinks they will, and that this generation of phones will be the one to take foldable mainstream.
“Indications for adoption are growing steadily due to the volume of foldable devices in the wild, increasing consumer online search trends, indication of purchase intent, app optimization and more,” said VP Garry McGregor.
“We know there’s a doubling under consideration for foldables among 18- to 45-year-olds and Gen-Z in particular, with a whopping 273 percent increase since last year.”
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