Samsung has been dominating the foldable smartphone market since the botched launch of the original Galaxy Fold in April 2019. Last year, Samsung made significant improvements to its foldable portfolio with the Galaxy Z Fold4 and Galaxy Z Flip4, resulting in a successful quarter, especially in India. I wrote about this in depth on ThePrint.
However, Samsung now faces competition from companies such as Oppo, which recently launched its new Find N2 Flip smartphone. The company claims that it is the most powerful flip-style folding screen smartphone in the world.
How competition is catching up
The Oppo Find N2 Flip may seem like an exaggeration with its MediaTek processor, considering the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip4 is powered by the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chip. However, MediaTek’s Dimensity 9000+ chip has gained ground on Qualcomm in the chipset space, making the Find N2 Flip one of the most powerful phones in its segment.
One of the biggest concerns for Samsung is that Oppo claims to have a better screen. Although Samsung has mastered AMOLED screens, the Oppo Find N2 Flip screen has a tear-drop hinge design. It minimises the crease, which collects dust particles that scratch and crack the polymer composite of the folding screen, besides being an eyesore. Oppo has minimised this issue with its innovative new hinge and claims that the phone has been stress-tested for 4,00,000 folds, equivalent to around 10 years of use. This is more than the average lifespan of modern smartphones. Moreover, the Find N2 Flip has more capable cameras on the back, which are also equipped with Hasselblad tuning. Oppo also adds a custom processor that helps capture better videos, and its outer screen is larger and more usable.
Samsung isn’t the only company facing competition in the foldable market. Vivo has its own X Fold, which it teased last year and is yet to debut in India. Virat Kohli was seen carrying it recently. This could indicate a potential brand ambassadorial role for Kohli, as most other celebrities are known to use the iPhone, which is the best-selling premium smartphone globally. Apple is also expected to launch a folding iPad mini in 2024, which could be its entry into the foldable market. OnePlus has also announced plans for its first folding phone, and Google is likely to launch the Pixel Foldable in a couple of months. Xiaomi, Huawei, and Tecno also sell foldables in China, which means Samsung has competition coming thick and fast.
Also read: With new Qualcomm chipset, OnePlus 11 and Galaxy S23 challenging iPhone on pure performance
Samsung could hold on to its edge
Samsung is the inventor of folding screen technology and maker of the basic raw material behind it. No one can deploy the technology at this scale apart from Samsung. Apple is often accused of not launching the latest features first because it is stricken by its own scale — the component supply is insufficient to launch products with cutting-edge features in such volumes. For example, Oppo’s tear-drop hinge is something Samsung is already planning on implementing on the Galaxy Z Flip5. It is rumoured that Samsung will sell millions more of the Flip than Oppo will of the Find N2 Flip. Samsung will likely use the new Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy, which will hand over the performance advantage back to the South Korean giant over the Oppo phone.
Samsung’s work on the software side in foldables is critical. It was ahead of even Google, the inventor of Android. This is where reviewers have complained about even Oppo’s Find N2, as they say ColourOS is not up to the mark and the big external screen is rather wasted. Now that the likes of Google are coming out with a foldable, this will be an area where Samsung needs to move the needle further. The Chinese competition will also eventually ramp up as they start launching more devices outside of China, with operating systems tuned for global markets. OnePlus in India, too, will be a notable threat as it will have something that is aspirational, considering it is a much-loved brand alongside Samsung and Apple in the premium segment of the market.
But still, for 2023, at least, if you’re looking for a foldable, be it the Galaxy Z Fold and Z Flip4 or the models planned for the second half of the year, Samsung remains a safe bet, more so than even Oppo’s impressive first salvo.
Foldables critical to profitability
The progress in foldable smartphones is critical as now, most of the growth resides in the premium segment of the market. As per the latest CounterPoint Research report, while smartphone sales have slowed down globally, there is an uptick in the sale of models that cost more than Rs 30,000. In fact, in terms of revenue, such smartphones make up more than 50 per cent of the total pie. This happened for the first time in 2022, and this will be a continuing trend. Foldables are a category apart from the iPhone Pro models, the most expensive smartphones today. They will be crucial for the profitability of brands like Samsung going forward, as there are fewer takers for cheap smartphones.
Sahil Mohan Gupta is the Technology Editor at Acko Drive. Views are personal.
(Edited by Humra Laeeq)