China’s tech giant No1 in foldable smartphones • The Register

It seems that US sanctions are not holding back Huawei, as the Chinese tech giant has now risen to the global top spot in smartphone shipments, at least as far as foldable models go.

The worldwide market for foldable smartphones grew 49 percent in the first quarter of 2024, compared with the same period last year, according to figures from Counterpoint Research. Much of this growth was driven by “significant shipment increases” at several Chinese handset makers, notably Huawei, which overtook Samsung for the first time.

Counterpoint says that Huawei saw a whopping 257 percent year-on-year growth, a major factor in which was the transition of its portfolio to mostly 5G devices from offering only LTE handsets a year ago.

Despite facing challenges in securing supplies for its homegrown 5G system-on-chip (SoC), thanks to those US sanctions, Huawei will continue to treat foldables as a priority because of the higher price they can command.

The market research outfit pointed to Huawei’s Mate X5, its first 5G book-style foldable, which has been one of the top sellers in China’s foldable market for three consecutive quarters. However, this year it released the Pocket 2, the company’s first 5G clamshell model, which significantly contributed to its Q1 shipments.

A spokesperson for Huawei told us that: “Huawei is proud of its track record of innovation in terms of foldable technology. Huawei continues to lead the industry in all foldable smartphone form factors and remains committed to bringing wonderful new experiences to global consumers.”

Speaking of book-style devices, Counterpoint says that these made up 55 percent of foldable smartphone shipments in Q1, surpassing the clamshell type for the first time since 2021 when the foldable segment market began to take off following the release of the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 with its bendy screen.

This is because China’s device makers such as Huawei, Honor, OnePlus and vivo have released new book-style products since the second half of last year, while growth in Samsung’s clamshell segment has slowed, Counterpoint claims.

But while Huawei focused chiefly on the Chinese market, Honor and Motorola have achieved notable growth in other markets. Honor’s shipments outside of China grew massively from a small base, Counterpoint says, thanks to the Honor Magic V2, which became the most popular foldable phone in Western Europe during Q1 thanks to its slimiline design.

Meanwhile, Motorola came from almost nothing to take 11 percent market share in a single year, with its Razr 40 (aka Razr 2023) becoming a top model in North America.

Counterpoint says that clamshell devices should not be counted out, despite the rise of the book-style foldables. It reckons Samsung could reclaim its market leadership with the upcoming Z Flip 6, which promises enhanced performance and reliability. Huawei is also planning to add a lower-priced model to its portfolio, and Honor and Xiaomi are poised to enter the clamshell segment for the first time. ®

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