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HomeTechFoldable handsets bring in a new era of premiumization

Foldable handsets bring in a new era of premiumization

NEW DELHI : Amid muted demand for smartphones in India due to the global economic downturn, manufacturers are increasingly introducing foldable devices, despite the country’s preference for budget and mid-range handsets. Analysts said that foldable smartphone shipment, featuring innovative form factors, has tripled in 2022.

Notably, premier brands are not alone in introducing foldable devices to India. In March, China’s Oppo launched its first foldable smartphone, Find N2 Flip. Tecno, another Chinese brand known for budget and mid-range phones, launched a foldable device in April. Samsung and Motorola were also among those to have launched foldable smartphones in India.

Around 170,000 foldable smartphones were dispatched to India in 2021, while in 2022 it was at over 520,000 units, said Navkendar Singh, associate vice president, IDC India. It is likely to surpass 700,000 this year, he added.

“After 5G, a new form factor such as foldable phones is the next big thing for a brand. They will bring premium foldable devices, that will help in brand marketing, and showcasing that they are right up there with any other brand in innovation,” said Singh.

According to Prachir Singh, senior research analyst, Counterpoint, shipment of foldables is likely to grow 30% this year, as its larger screen and unique form factor is drawing buyers. “We expect many companies to launch foldable phones, as it will help brands differentiate their products, and deal with the brand value Apple enjoys in this segment,” he added.

Screens of foldable phones can bend from the middle and uses displays with higher plastic substrates. Unlike the first foldable phones, like the first-gen Samsung Galaxy Fold, which had poor hinge design and display issues, new devices have resolved most defects.

Some foldable phones offer larger tablet-like screens which make them very useful for work. For instance, the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 has a 7.6-inch screen and Tecno Phantom V Fold has a 7.8-inch screen.

Increasing foldable phone shipments despite the higher price tags reflects a premiumization trend, where demand for such phones is on the rise, while remaining segments has seen a slump due to the global economic slowdown.

“Tecno’s expansion across markets has been punctuated by a shift to higher-spec devices. This pivot towards premium is aligned with demand, where consumers are willing to pay more for technologically advanced devices,” said Arijeet Talapatra, chief executive, Tecno Mobile.

Talapatra acknowledged that the foldable category is currently niche but said the demand will surely increase in the future.

That said, Sanyam Chaurasia, Technology Market Analyst at Canalys, noted that the adoption of foldable in India is still not at the same level as it has in other markets. According to IDC, 14.2 million foldable devices were shipped globally in 2022.

“Price segment at which these foldable devices are being launched is still very high and that is still niche. There is still a lot of improvement required in user interface and hardware quality. Once that happens it will pick up faster,” said Chaurasia.

He added that in India, it is going to be hard for brands to bring foldable to more affordable segments as component prices, especially that of displays used in these devices, are very high.

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