But foldable devices still represent a small part of the single-screen smartphone market.
Enterprise customer demand for Samsung’s foldable phones more than doubled during the first 10 months of 2022. Samsung announced this week that enterprise purchases of its foldable smartphones were up 105% compared to the same period in 2021.
Samsung emphasized that the rise of professionals working remotely or in multiple locations is an important driver of this demand.
According to a statement from EVP KC Choi, who heads Samsung Electronics’ global B2B mobile device organization: “Samsung Galaxy foldable smartphones were created to open up opportunities for new ways of working and exploring creativity.”
Samsung cited Counterpoint Research’s forecast that 16 million foldable smartphones will be shipped this year, which is 73% more than in 2021. Also, referring to Counterpoint’s forecast, Samsung stated that 26 million foldable smartphones will be shipped in 2023.
However, since Counterpoint released its outlook for the foldable market in August, its forecast may be overly optimistic. Ross Young, co-founder and CEO of DSCC, made that assessment, noting that shipments of foldable phones have slowed since then.
“Shippings have really slowed down [the fourth quarter]Young said. “It seems more than 13 million.”
DSCC is a research firm specializing in supply chains of supply-based products and components. Young said he doesn’t see shipments picking up early next year.
“It certainly won’t be 26 million,” he said.
Despite these high numbers, foldable shipments represent a slice of the 1.27 billion smartphones IDC predicts to ship this year.
Partners in the barn
Samsung B2B Mobile Channel Head Jeff Gustafson is optimistic about the potential of foldable devices.
“We’re seeing some unique use cases emerging in finance, government, healthcare and elsewhere,” Gustafsson recently told Channel Futures. “It just continues to evolve.”
Samsung, which released its Galaxy Fold4 and Galaxy Flip4 phones in August, has shipped the majority of its foldable devices. Competitors are Huawei Mate and Motorola Razr. The latter company, which is a division of Lenovo, recently launched its latest flagship, Motorola Razr 2022, in some countries.
Microsoft’s current Surface Duo hasn’t been a huge hit. In September, Lenovo showed off an updated version of its ThinkPad X1 Fold laptop, though the company didn’t reveal release plans. There are rumors that Microsoft may update the dual-screen Surface Duo in 2023.
Young said he wasn’t surprised that companies are the biggest customers of foldable phones.
“It makes sense that there would be some growth in shipments to the commercial markets,” he said. “It’s good to see Samsung calling out the benefits for business users.”
Mobile epidemic spending
Principal Techsponential analyst Avi Greengart noted that the foldable market has benefited from increased mobile spending from the pandemic.
“If there’s a surprising angle here, it’s that demand for foldable phones continues even if laptop sales are now down,” Greengart said.
Greengart agreed that commercial users would likely benefit from the foldable form factor.
“You can see more information and do more on the Galaxy Z Fold4 than on any bar phone,” he said. “Samsung also has industry-leading security capabilities, and its foldable device software has been perfected over four generations.”
Next year, Greengart expects to see more players launch new folds, but the US remains a challenge so far.
“Most of the companies adding foldable devices are Chinese companies and lack US distribution companies and enterprise-friendly software and support,” he said. But if Microsoft gives its Surface Duo a significant update next year, Greengard added, “it could provide Samsung with competition.”