The foldable phone market used to be a small niche for just the richest buyers, but it's rapidly getting bigger, and new stats illustrate just the scale of that growth.
Display experts DSCC have published a report on the foldable phone market, looking at 'Q1 2022' or January to March this year. It's been the third-best quarter ever for this kind of mobile, though it struggled behind the Christmas period of 2021.
But there's a clear winner here in terms of shipments: it's the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3, which hoovered up a 51% market share, beating out the Z Flip 3 (which was second place) and the Huawei P50 Pocket (which was third).
Those three mobiles together made up 91% of shipments with older flagships from Samsung and Huawei, and the likes of the Xiaomi Mi Mix Fold and Oppo Find N left to pick up the pieces.
Clamshells (like the Flip and P50 Pocket) were the big winners, getting 70% of the market share, despite those two devices being the only new models in the category.
Analysis: the buyers have spoken
There are lots of numbers flying around, but foldable phone manufacturers likely are getting some major takeaways from this news.
First, clamshells are clearly popular, and with these stats in mind, it doesn't really make sense that only Samsung, Huawei, and Motorola are making these devices - and the latter didn't put out a foldable in 2022.
We'll likely see more companies, like Xiaomi, Honor, and Oppo, look to this form factor.
There's a big benefit in clamshells, and that's in the price department: Samsung's Z Flip 3 was positioned as a budget alternative to the Z Fold 3, and that's because of the sizes. Smaller clamshells just don't require as big screens or as numerous components as their big siblings, and so cost less to buy.
One other small point of interest is that the three phones that made up 91% of foldable phone sales are some of the rare examples of folding devices that went on sale on a global market. Plenty of devices, like the Honor Magic V, Oppo Find N, and Xiaomi Mi Mix Fold, only went on sale in China, and all those exclusive devices clearly made up less than 9% of the sales.
Many companies are likely now realizing that they'll have to expand their scope in order to avoid losing the foldable phone race.
So overall, if companies bear these stats in mind, there could be more choices in clamshell phones, and foldables will ultimately be more affordable.
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Tom Bedford was deputy phones editor on TechRadar until late 2022, having worked his way up from staff writer. Though he specialized in phones and tablets, he also took on other tech like electric scooters, smartwatches, fitness, mobile gaming and more. He is based in London, UK and now works for the entertainment site What To Watch.
He graduated in American Literature and Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia. Prior to working on TechRadar, he freelanced in tech, gaming and entertainment, and also spent many years working as a mixologist. He also currently works in film as a screenwriter, director and producer.