Samsung’s biggest foldable rival could be Oppo.

Samsung's biggest foldable rival could be Oppo.

Samsung Faces Increasing Competition in the Foldable Phone Market

In the world of foldable phones, Samsung has been a dominant force, overcoming technological challenges and leading the way in terms of innovation. Over the past four years, the South Korean electronics giant has sold millions of foldable devices, establishing itself as a market leader. However, as the company prepares to launch its latest wave of foldable phones at Galaxy Unpacked, it finds itself facing a much more crowded marketplace.

In the US alone, both Google and Motorola have recently launched compelling foldable phones that directly rival Samsung’s Galaxy Z Fold 4 and Galaxy Z Flip 4. Furthermore, Oppo, a subsidiary of OnePlus, is rumored to also have a foldable phone in the pipeline. Beyond the US, Samsung faces growing competition from Chinese phone manufacturers such as Oppo, Honor, and Huawei. These companies have released their latest foldable phones internationally, directly competing with Samsung.

Despite the increased competition, Samsung’s early investments in foldable phones have provided it with an advantage in terms of software optimization, durability, and support. According to Avi Greengart, an analyst at Techsponential, “Globally, there is no single challenger, although Chinese vendors collectively are starting to offer worthy alternatives.” Greengart specifically highlights Honor’s advanced hardware and Oppo’s Find N series, which offers a different form factor to Samsung’s Galaxy Z Fold at a lower price.

The Potential of Oppo in the Foldable Phone Market

Oppo has emerged as a strong contender in the foldable phone segment. Earlier this year, the company launched its first-ever flip phone, the Find N2 Flip, in overseas markets. While it seems to draw inspiration from Samsung’s Galaxy Z Flip 4, the Find N2 Flip received positive reviews for its vertical cover screen. The 3.26-inch cover screen provides more usability compared to the smaller 1.9-inch display on Samsung’s counterpart. During testing, it was found to be convenient for tasks like checking the weather and taking selfies without needing to unfold the phone. The quick reply feature from the cover screen also received praise for its ease of use.

However, the Find N2 Flip still has some limitations compared to its competitors. For instance, it does not allow users to open any apps from the cover screen, requiring them to unfold the device for that functionality. In comparison, Motorola’s 2020 Razr offers a full keyboard and the ability to curate apps for the cover screen, even allowing gaming experiences. Despite this, Oppo is seen as having the most potential to compete directly with Samsung in the foldable phone market, according to research firm International Data Corporation (IDC). IDC cites factors such as growth trajectory, market footprint, and marketing efforts to support its assertion.

To gain an edge, Oppo has established branded stores in over 70 countries and territories, making it a significant competitor to Samsung and even threatening Google, which has a presence in only 20 countries and territories. These physical stores are particularly important in the foldable phone market, as customers prefer to experience the devices before making a purchase. Will Wong, a senior research manager at IDC, emphasizes the necessity of a wider retail network to build a high-end image.

In the first quarter of this year, Oppo’s market share surged to nearly 17%, placing it second worldwide behind Samsung’s 64.5% market share. Huawei holds 10% of the global market, while Honor and Motorola account for 4% and less than 1% respectively. Elvis Zhou, Oppo’s overseas chief marketing officer, expressed the company’s ambition to make strides in the premium sector, particularly in the foldable phone market. Zhou believes that foldable phones provide more diversities and flexibility for consumers’ lives.

Oppo’s Flip Phone Strategy

The Find N2 Flip represents Oppo’s push to establish itself as an upscale brand in the global market and capture a larger share of the foldable phone industry. As part of its marketing efforts, Oppo has partnered with prestigious sporting events, including Wimbledon and the UEFA Champions League. These high-profile tournaments attract millions of viewers worldwide, and Oppo aims to create an emotional connection with local users through such collaborations.

According to IDC, clamshell-style phones have accounted for more than 50% of foldable shipments from 2020 to the first quarter of 2023. This trend is likely to continue due to the lower average selling price of flip phones compared to book-style phones. Wong suggests that launching a book-style foldable phone could help Oppo target a different segment, such as business professionals.

While Oppo has released book-style models in China, it has not responded directly to Samsung’s book-style phones in the global market. However, rumors suggest that Oppo will announce its next-generation Find N3 Flip later this year or early next year. In the meantime, Samsung is set to unveil its fifth wave of foldable phones, potentially raising the bar for flip phones everywhere. Despite the increasing competition, Greengart believes that any competition that brings consumers to consider foldables is ultimately good for Samsung.

In this evolving landscape of foldable phones, Samsung’s position as a market leader is being challenged by a plethora of competitors. Oppo, with its growth trajectory, market footprint, and marketing efforts, has emerged as a formidable rival. While Samsung’s early investments provide an edge in software optimization and support, Oppo’s physical store network gives it an advantage. As the market continues to evolve, it will be exciting to see how these companies compete and innovate in the foldable phone space.

Images: 1. Oppo’s Find N2 Flip 2. Samsung’s Galaxy Z Flip 4 3. Oppo’s global brand-ambassador, Kaka

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