As 2021 draws to a close and CES 2022 approaches, Samsung has reported that consumers have come out in droves to buy its foldables, with the company shipping four times as many this year as it did in 2020.
This is in large part due to the new foldables that launched in August, the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3. Combined, sales of both devices in the month after their debut surpassed how many the company sold the entire previous year, according to a press release.
Both foldables are refined versions of their predecessors, with better software and features, but more importantly, they're also notably cheaper. Though the Z Fold 3's $1,800 price still kept it out of reach of most consumers, the clamshell Z Flip 3 launched with a price tag of $999, finally giving consumers a foldable option at the same starting price as an iPhone 13 Pro.
For consumers who owned a non-Samsung phone, more switched brands to buy a Z Flip 3 than bought the $800 Samsung Galaxy S21, the company also said. The clamshell foldable served as a more attractive next phone than Samsung's flagship as well as the stylus-packing Samsung Galaxy Note 20.
Though Samsung didn't provide sales numbers, the growth matches Counterpoint Research's August expectations that 9 million foldables would be sold worldwide in 2021, a threefold increase over 2020. Samsung accounted for 88 percent of the foldable market last year, and while the report projects that'll wane (likely due to new devices, like the Oppo Find N, siphoning share), the company is still expected to sell three-quarters of the world's foldables through 2023.
That's when the mobile device landscape could change in a major way, as analysts expect Apple to release its rumored iPhone Flip foldable in 2023. But given how many more of the devices will be sold, with Counterpoint expecting foldable shipments to triple again by then, Samsung will have a sizable head start over its rivals.
The biggest winner will likely be consumers. We'd expect foldable prices to fall as manufacturers continue to refine designs and ramp up production of components like flexible displays and hinge mechanisms that've been costly to design but cheaper with every iteration. How cheap they'll get is anyone's guess, though companies are trying to drive the price down. TCL, for instance, chose not to mass produce its Project Chicago clamshell phone rather than release it at a $1,000 price point, though it's continuing to develop foldables – presumably aiming to get closer to the $500 and $600 prices of its most expensive phones.