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Foldable phones will remain 'a niche product' for years, analyst says

Samsung's Galaxy Fold and Huawei's Mate X won't take over the market anytime soon.

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Huawei's Mate X will set you back about $2,600 -- the cost is one of the reasons Gartner expects people to be slow to buy foldable phones.

Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

Samsung and Huawei were among the companies making a big fuss about foldable phones at MWC back in February, but an analyst reckons they won't take over the smartphone market for quite a while.

Foldable phones will hit 30 million units by 2023, accounting for 5% of the high-end phone market, Gartner predicted Monday.

Roberta Cozza, Gartner's research director, expects that people will use their foldable phones as they do their regular smartphones -- picking them up hundreds of times a day. They'll unfold devices like Samsung's Galaxy Fold and Huawei's Mate X "sporadically" to type on the plastic screen, which could scratch quickly depending on the folding mechanism.

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"Through the next five years, we expect foldable phones to remain a niche product due to several manufacturing challenges," she said in a release.

"In addition to the surface of the screen, the price is a barrier despite we expect to decline with time. Currently priced at $2,000, foldable phones present too many trade-offs, even for many early technology adopters."

The Galaxy Fold is expected to hit the market April 26, while the Mate X is due in the middle of the year.

Gartner also expects phone makers to tweak the designs of their foldable devices in the short term, as they adapt to early adopters' feedback.

"A key consideration for product managers is to place usability at the core of their product development, ensuring the user experience is continuous and seamless across all foldable screens," Cozza said.

First published at 4:25 a.m. PT.
Updated at 4:50 a.m. PT: Adds more details.