Google is expected to launch its first foldable smartphone in June, which could pose a direct challenge to market leader Samsung Electronics’ dominance.
The tech company will unveil what it calls the Pixel Fold, a 7.6-inch inward-folding device similar to Samsung’s flagship Galaxy Z Fold series, at its I/O industry conference on May 10, CNBC reported, citing internal documents .
It also comes with a 5.8-inch deck screen, which is smaller than the Galaxy Z Fold’s 6.2-inch design, it said.
As expected, the price is very high: the Pixel Fold, known internally as “Felix”, is said to cost at least $1,700, making it the most expensive in the Pixel lineup and within reach of the $1,799 Galaxy Z Fold.
South Korea-based Samsung also has its lower-end Galaxy Z Flip, with the current iteration starting at $999.
Google did not respond to a request for comment from The National.
The growing popularity of foldable smartphones has been largely credited to Samsung pushing the category into the mainstream, starting with the original Galaxy Z Fold in 2019.
Although the category is growing, it still accounts for only a marginal share of the overall smartphone sector.
Foldable devices held a 1.2 percent market share in the industry with 14.2 million units shipped in 2022, while traditional smartphones accounted for 98.8 percent of the total with more than 1.19 billion shipped last year, according to International Data Corporation .
However, by 2027, shipments of foldable devices are expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 27.6 percent to 48.1 million units, compared to a CAGR of 2.1 percent for conventional devices, which shipped at 1 .32 billion are set to rise , it said.
The IDC study showed that this would increase the market share of foldables to 3.5 percent.
Foldable devices remain a niche, but their uniqueness and the new user experience they offer could be a key selling point for users, the IDC said.
“Foldable devices have that ‘wow factor’ right now, and I believe they’ll grab even more headlines over the next five years, surpassing non-foldable smartphones,” said Nabila Popal, research lead on IDC’s Worldwide Tracker team.
Google’s launch of the Pixel Fold would be the culmination of years of speculation. The company first announced foldable screen support for its Android mobile operating system in 2018, followed by patent filings for foldable devices in 2019.
While the move will give a boost to Google’s Pixel smartphone lineup, the Samsung acquisition could prove to be quite a challenge.
The Korean company, the world’s largest maker of mobile phones, holds a 62 percent market share in the foldable category, well ahead of second-place Huawei Technologies, the latest data from Counterpoint Research shows.
Huawei, Oppo, Xiaomi, and Vivo, all based in China, have all introduced foldable devices, but they’re mostly limited to the Chinese market.
Motorola, the maker of the famous Razr clamshell, which was re-launched as a folding phone, could for now be the only competitor in markets like the US, where the Pixel range is concentrated, Counterpoint had previously said.
Meanwhile, rumors of Apple’s foray into the segment have been swirling for a number of years, with speculation of a foldable iPhone mounting when Samsung and Huawei released their first foldable devices in 2019.
Foldable devices are bringing that “wow factor” right now, and I believe they’ll grab even more headlines in the next five years, outperforming non-foldable smartphones
Nabila Popal, director of research at International Data Corporation
California-based Apple has filed patents for devices with foldable displays, data-tracking website Patently Apple reports.
Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman, a reliable source of inside news at Apple, has also hinted that the company may be working on a foldable iPad.
“Additional models from both new and current vendors are expected to bring further enhancements and enhancements to the category to drive continued adoption,” IDC said.
The Pixel Fold will run on Google’s Tensor G2 chip, found in the latest Pixel 7 devices, and will be waterproof, documents seen by CNBC showed.
It will also have a larger battery, allowing it to last 24 hours and up to 72 hours on sleep mode, the report says.
Updated: Apr 19, 2023 9:37 am