With most smartphone manufacturers seeing mediocre sales results in 2023, many OEMs are betting on folding phones in 2024 and beyond.
A study by Counterpoint Research suggests that foldables could capture 39% of the premium smartphone market by 2027. However, to date, these types of devices have yet to become mainstream.
How many people are shopping for foldable phones?
Here at Green Smartphones, an Ofcom-accredited smartphone comparison website, we wanted to find out how much demand there currently is for foldable phones.
Is Apple making a mistake by ignoring these types of devices, at least for now? Or are foldable phones still seeing relatively little demand from shoppers?
To find out, we analysed web traffic on our smartphone comparison site last year, to uncover what proportion of people are shopping for foldable phones.
Total market share
We first assessed demand for folding phones as a proportion of all smartphone searches made through our website, including older devices, and refurbished handsets.
- Demand for folding phones represented 6.67% of all smartphone comparison requests on our website – about 1 in every 15 website visits.
- This comprised 3.89% demand for folding phones that open horizontally, like a book, and 2.78% for flip phones that open vertically, like an old-school flip phone.
- Foldable demand did not increase or decrease during the calendar year. Demand varied by month, but no trend in demand was apparent throughout the year.
Premium market share
We then assessed demand for folding phones as a proportion of the premium handset market – comparing it to demand for other premium phones, such as the Apple iPhone 15, Samsung Galaxy S23, and Google Pixel 8.
- Demand for folding phones represented 10.73% of all comparison requests for premium smartphones on our website – about 1 in every 9 website visits.
To find the proportion of people shopping for folding phones on our website, we first totalled the number of visits to foldable phone deals pages in 2023, like the Google Pixel Fold, Samsung Galaxy Z Fold5, and Oppo Find N2 Flip. We then compared this to the total number of visits to all smartphone deals pages, to assess what proportion of people are interested in folding phones as opposed to other types of smartphones.
To assess premium market share, we compared the number of visits to folding phones’ deal pages to the number of visits to the following phones’ deal pages:
- Apple iPhone 14 and variants (as this was the Apple flagship in early 2023)
- Apple iPhone 15 and variants
- Samsung Galaxy S22 and variants (as this was the Samsung flagship in early 2023)
- Samsung Galaxy S23
- Google Pixel 7 and variants, excluding the Pixel 7a (as this was the Google flagship in early 2023)
- Google Pixel 8 and variants
Most of our web traffic during the analysis period was from the UK, with a small proportion from the US and other countries.
For manufacturers’ investments in foldable devices to pay off, demand for these types of handsets still has a long way to go.
While foldables’ market share has increased over the past five years, it may worry OEMs like Samsung to see numbers this low, especially if demand did not significantly increase in 2023 as our data indicates.
7% of smartphone sales is no small figure – we estimate this amounts to at least US $20b in annual sales of foldable phones last year. However, it remains to be seen if the majority of consumers are willing to pay a premium for these types of devices in the long term.
It is rumoured that Apple will release a foldable iPhone in 2025. If this occurs, market share of the foldable market will rise significantly. This may be the catalyst to bring foldable phones into the mainstream, and see these types of devices reach a 15 or 20 percent share of the market in the next few years.