Samsung is bending over backwards to establish its dominance in the foldable smartphone market, a segment that is still nascent but growing rapidly. Four years after the launch of its first models, the Korean manufacturer announces, 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 an 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 could still grow by 73% in 2022, according to the research firm Counterpoint Research, while its colleague Strategy Analytics forecasts the sale of 75 million devices worldwide in 2025. A level, however, marginal in view of the figure of 1.3 billion smartphones sold worldwide in 2021.
Inventor of the concept, with a prototype unveiled in 2009, Samsung crushes the competition. The South Korean holds 99% of the French market for foldable smartphones, but a little less globally, around 80%, according to Counterpoint projections for the end of 2022. Its great rival, Apple, has not launched on this niche. The South Korean LG can’t break through, just like Motorola, the American brand of the Chinese Lenovo. As for its Chinese competitors, Huawei, Oppo or Xiaomi, they have retreated to their respective domestic markets since the 2019 American sanctions against Chinese technology companies.
The design of this type of device, different from that of 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 capacities”underlines François Hernandez to explain the time ahead of the Korean brand.
Samsung is taking advantage of this competitive advantage to make its foldables, 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 for increasing value. “In France, foldables represent 15% of our sales of high-end smartphones. We intend to increase this share to 25%”informed François Hernandez, according to which “even at these price levels, we know how to sell large volumes, as with the Galaxy S22”Samsung bestseller, “which is in the same price category”.
This rise in value makes it possible to counter the erosion in volume of the global smartphone market, expected to fall 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 foldables in the first half of 2022 than the same time last year, this influence on prices can be seen since the first confinement of 2020, which prompted the French to redirect part of their usual spending on leisure or outings to electronic devices. According to the GFK firm, the average price of a smartphone in France has gone 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 smartphones high-end more accessible to the general public.
But the manufacturer is mainly counting on the features promised by these foldable screens 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, an analyst at Counterpoint Research. Samsung has also taken care of the photographic and video characteristics of its two new devices, to adapt them to the uses 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). Collaborations with Meta (parent company of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp) and Google have been pushed to adapt their applications to these foldable screens. “We don’t want a gimmicky effect because that would risk creating disappointment” and kill the market, recognizes François Hernandez. Hence Samsung’s desire to remain, for the moment, on expensive and high-end devices.