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.1
Consumer enthusiasm for Samsung foldables is exemplified by the success of the Galaxy Z series. In the first month since 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 2023,2 let’s take a look at the key moments, top innovations and important partnerships that have helped make foldable devices the next big thing.
Bringing Foldables 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. A 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.
Innovations Behind the Technology
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 rating.
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 us to work, play and express ourselves.
Driving Consumer 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.4 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.
Pioneering the Foldable Future
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.
In establishing an entirely new mobile category a decade ago, Samsung raised the bar for mobile innovation. As it looks toward the next decade and beyond, the company will continue to reinvent the mobile experience to change what’s possible as they unfold.
1 According to figures from Counterpoint Research
2 According to figures from Counterpoint Research
3 Samsung Big Data Center
4 Only Galaxy Z Fold3 main display has S Pen capability. Compatible only with the S Pen Fold Edition or S Pen Pro, sold separately.