When Samsung Electronics revealed its first prototype of a flexible
display back in 2011, few people realized they were witnessing a glimpse into
the mobile industry’s future. Now, a decade later, Samsung has shipped 4 times
more foldable devices in 2021 than in 2020, exceeding the three-fold market
growth that analysts expected.
Consumer enthusiasm for Samsung foldables is exemplified by the
success of the Galaxy Z series. In the first month since its launch, the Galaxy
Z Fold3 and Z Flip3 exceeded total accumulative sales of Samsung foldable
devices in 2020.
With foldable smartphone shipments predicted to grow tenfold by 2023,
let’s take a look at the key moments, top innovations and important
partnerships that have helped make foldable devices the next big thing.
To Consumers Around the World
Samsung may have first introduced the concept of foldable displays in
2011, but it would take over a decade to bring foldable devices to consumers
around the world.
The next major milestone came in 2019, when Samsung finally brought
its foldable vision to reality with the Galaxy Fold, its first foldable device.
Soon after that came the Galaxy Z Flip. The sleek clamshell design – a
throwback to flip phones of yore – made the Galaxy Z Flip an instant icon.
After a decade of progress and three generations of innovation, the
Galaxy Z Fold3 and Z Flip3 brought enhanced durability and an improved user
experience to foldables. Not only have they set a new standard in the industry,
but they rekindled consumer interest in smartphones in general.
From creating new materials and methods to overcoming mechanical
challenges, creating the foldable category required Samsung to reimagine the
smartphone from the inside out.
From the onset, Samsung engineers understood that the key to creating
a new category would be inventing a range of new technologies to ensure the
devices would meet the expectations of global consumers.
The Infinity Flex Display and Samsung UTG, for example, enabled the
world’s first folding glass display. While its screen may be a continuous piece
of glass, a foldable’s body features two distinct components. This unique
structure meant that in order to maintain a design slim enough for daily use,
engineers would have to completely rethink the placement of internal
components. That challenge included designing a new internal cooling system as
well as a dual-battery system with technology that optimizes multiple power
sources as one.
To ensure that the devices would be capable of withstanding hundreds
of thousands of folds, a Hideaway Hinge mechanism was designed with Sweeper
technology to help keep out dust and dirt particles. The hinge also added a new
layer of functionality to Samsung foldables, allowing them to stand on their
own, which makes them perfect for watching content, making video calls, or
taking hands-free selfies.
Samsung’s dedication to creating new foldable innovations enabled it
to achieve yet another major milestone in 2021 with the release of the Galaxy Z
Fold3 and Z Flip3 – the first foldables to receive an IPX8 water resistance
But the features that set Samsung foldables apart aren’t all hidden
beneath the surface. With App Continuity – a responsive UI that delivers
seamless transitions between folded and unfolded modes – and features like
Multi-Active Window and Flex mode, Samsung foldables have unlocked new ways for
users to work, play and express themselves.
Demand for Foldable Devices
This unprecedented push in innovation has sparked a surging demand for
foldable devices, bringing more users to the Galaxy family than ever before.
Compared to the Galaxy Note20, Samsung has seen a 150 percent3 increase in
consumers who switched smartphone brands for the Galaxy Z Flip3, and a 140
percent increase compared to the Galaxy S21.
A simple explanation for this massive increase is that both Galaxy Z
series devices offer distinct features that appeal to specific customer groups
in ways that no other smartphones have before.
A buyer survey conducted by Samsung revealed that a stylish design,
portability and an innovative folding form factor were the top drivers behind
purchases of the Galaxy Z Flip3. The ability to use the cover screen without
opening the device was another important factor for those who value privacy, as
well as those who want to regulate their screen time to manage their mental
health. Buyers of the Galaxy Z Fold3, meanwhile, reported being drawn to its
large screen for viewing content, multitasking capabilities and productivity
features, including the S Pen. At the end of the day, it’s clear that both
devices are giving consumers more incentive than ever to switch to a foldable,
even if it means changing brands or operating systems.
As more consumers become aware of foldables’ incredible potential,
interest in the category will continue to grow. With a variety of innovations
set to make their way to consumers in the coming years, Samsung will continue to
lead the foldable category with even more pioneering technology.
To achieve this goal, Samsung is heavily investing in R&D while
openly collaborating with app developers and industry partners such as Google.
For years, Samsung and Google have been collaborating to make the
foldable experience scalable by providing Android developers with the necessary
framework and resources. In 2021, the companies announced guidelines for
creating apps for large-screen and foldable devices, building on Google’s work
to optimize its most popular apps – such as Gmail, YouTube, Duo and Maps – for
foldable form factors. Going forward, Samsung will continue to work with
partners and developers to develop technologies that will steer the future of
the mobile industry.