Samsung’s biggest foldable rival could be Oppo, not Google or Motorola.

Samsung's biggest foldable rival could be Oppo, not Google or Motorola.

Samsung Faces Increasing Competition in the Foldable Phone Market

In the past four years, Samsung has been at the forefront of the foldable phone market, overcoming technological hurdles and dominating the category. The company has sold tens of millions of foldable devices and has been a driving force in mobile innovation worldwide. However, as Samsung prepares to launch its next wave of foldable phones at Galaxy Unpacked this week, it finds itself in a more crowded landscape.

In the US alone, Google and Motorola have recently launched compelling foldable phones that directly compete with Samsung’s Galaxy Z Fold 4 and Galaxy Z Flip 4. Additionally, rumors suggest that OnePlus, a subsidiary of Oppo, is also preparing to release a foldable phone. Internationally, Samsung faces growing competition from Chinese manufacturers Oppo, Honor, and Huawei, all of which have released their latest foldable phones to rival Samsung.

Despite the increasing competition, Samsung’s early investments in foldable phones have allowed the company to maintain a lead in software optimization, durability, and support. According to Avi Greengart, an analyst at Techsponential, while Chinese vendors are starting to offer worthy alternatives, Samsung still holds an advantage. Honor offers advanced hardware, while Oppo’s Find N series provides a different form factor at a lower price. However, the global market doesn’t yet have a single dominant challenger to Samsung.

The Potential of Oppo

Among Samsung’s competitors, Oppo is seen as having the most potential to compete in the foldables segment. Research firm International Data Corporation (IDC) highlights Oppo’s growth trajectory, market footprint, and marketing efforts as key factors. Although there is still a significant gap between Oppo and Samsung, Oppo’s expansion into more than 70 countries through physical stores or booths gives it a competitive edge over its Chinese rivals and even threatens Google.

In the first quarter of this year, Oppo’s market share surged to nearly 17%, placing it in second place worldwide behind Samsung, which commands a 64.5% market share. Huawei holds 10% of the global market, while Honor and Motorola account for 4% and less than 1% respectively. Oppo aims to make strides in the premium sector, especially in the foldable phone market, believing that foldable devices provide more diversities and flexibility for consumers’ lives.

Oppo’s Flip Phone Bet

Oppo’s Find N2 Flip, its first-ever flip phone in overseas markets, has garnered attention for its vertical cover screen. Although inspired by Samsung’s counterpart, the Find N2 Flip drew praise from reviewers for its more usable 3.26-inch cover screen, allowing users to check the weather, take selfies, and use quick replies without unfolding the phone. However, the functionality is limited compared to competitors like Motorola’s Razr, which offers a full keyboard and customizable cover screen apps.

IDC recognizes that Oppo’s flip phone strategy holds promise, noting that clamshell-style phones account for over 50% of foldable shipments. The average selling price of a flip phone is generally lower than that of a book-style phone. Oppo has already released book-style models in China but hasn’t responded globally to Samsung’s book-style phones. However, rumors suggest Oppo will announce its next-generation Find N3 Flip later this year or early next year.

As Oppo vies for a larger slice of the foldable phone market globally, the company is actively building its brand through high-profile sporting events. Oppo’s partnerships with Wimbledon and the UEFA Champions League aim to enhance its global brand influence and create an emotional connection with local users. IDC’s research manager, Will Wong, acknowledges that Oppo’s wider retail network in more than 70 countries gives the Chinese company an advantage in the still-emerging foldable phone category.

The Implications for Samsung

While Samsung faces a more crowded landscape in the foldable phone market, competition is ultimately good for the industry. Although the specific challenges posed by Oppo’s offering are yet to be seen, the entrance of competitors helps to solidify the relevance and appeal of foldable phones. As a leading player, Samsung will continue to push the boundaries of innovation. Only time will tell how Samsung responds with its upcoming Galaxy Z Flip 5, but the overall growth and interest in foldables will benefit the industry as a whole.