The announcement of Samsung’s anticipated foldable phone, the Galaxy Fold, at its recent Unpacked launch event came just ahead of Huawei’s Mate X. The devices are expected to launch in April and June respectively, giving consumers access to the long-awaited foldable phone concept.
Should smartphone manufacturers be prepared for a slow start?
While smartphone manufacturers rush to get an early start on the technology, consumers are unlikely to shell out on the costly devices straight away.
“Samsung plans to release its Fold in April, with Huawei to follow in June with the Mate X, asking a higher price but also bringing the added hype sticker of 5G,” James Manning Smith, market analyst at Futuresource Consulting, said. “However, given that both handsets come with premium price points, they, like Royole’s Flexpai before them, will act more like proof of concept rather than genuine drivers of market growth.”
While the latest flagship phones, like Apple’s iPhone X and Samsung’s recently announced Galaxy S10, have almost breached the $1,000 mark, the Galaxy Fold is set to launch at a price of $1,980, while the Huawei Mate X will set you back by as much as $2,600. Convincing consumers to shell out an additional $1,000 for a bigger screen might be an ask too big.
However, at this stage in the development of flexible screens, there isn’t much that manufacturers can do to reduce the cost of flexible phones in 2019.
“The higher manufacturing costs of flexible screens will result in smartphones retailing at highly premium prices,” Smith said. “While this is in part also the result of other technological innovations, not least 5G modems, commanding premium prices, the flexible screen presents a significant manufacturing cost to vendors.”
As a result, foldable phones are unlikely to become the new norm this year, despite the hype that the Galaxy Fold and Huawei Mate X have generated.
“This will inhibit mass adoption at launch, and it is likely that only enthusiastic early adopters with deep pockets will purchase flexible phones in 2019,” Smith said.