Barely anyone is buying foldable smartphones yet

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 review Bora Purple open acute angled 16:9
(Image credit: Future / Alex Walker-Todd)

Shipments of foldable smartphones will reach 41.5 million by 2026, according to IDC, giving hope to the industry that new form factors will gain traction among consumers and businesses.

IDC's latest figures suggest shipments will increase by two thirds to 13.5 million in 2022, before growing at an annual rate of 38.7% over the next four years.

Several manufacturers have looked to foldable devices as a way to offer new experiences for consumers who might not be tempted to upgrade to another ‘slate’ device that has become the industry standard.

Foldable smartphones

These devices are typically in the premium segment of the market, meaning higher margins for vendors.

Samsung is the most notable proponent of foldable phones, launching several generations of its Galaxy Z Flip and Fold devices. The most recent iterations of these handsets, the Flip 4 and Fold 4, were released in August 2022, receiving positive reviews and a significant marketing push.

Huawei and Oppo have also dipped their toes in the segment, however their efforts have largely been limited to China. Oppo has said greater support from app developers would be needed for a wider release

IDC believes Samsung’s latest entries both will outperform their predecessors and drive greater awareness in the market. It also believes the commercial segment of the market will be interested in two-in-one devices that can replace both a smartphone and a tablet.

"The recent launch of the Galaxy Z Flip 4 and Fold 4 will once again shine a spotlight on the entire category as Samsung continues to be the gold standard for foldable devices in the market," said Anthony Scarsella, research manager with IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker.

"The new launches from Samsung have brought incremental but critical improvements over their predecessors. The success of these devices should be a strong indicator of how foldables will evolve and capture consumers moving forward. While the price remains a pain point for consumers, the $999 starting price may be accepted by consumers given that most consumer goods have seen price increases due to inflation in 2022."

Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.