Market advisory firm ABI Research's new report predicts market penetration of foldable smartphones to increase significantly by 2028. At the same time, tablets and wearables manufacturers aren't really expected to go big on the form factor.
In recent times, patents related to foldable and rollable phones from different companies including Samsung, Apple, and LG have crop up. This hints that device vendors are exploring different ways flexible displays can be used. As ABI Research notes, these changes will likely help boost demand and improve device replacement cycles.
Initial High Prices Of Foldable Smartphones Will Likely Restrict Demand
The tech firm believes that smartphones with foldable and rollable displays will start gaining more attention starting next year. From then on, the growth is expected to be in double digits. More specifically, from a projected 1.8 million shipments this year, around 240 million foldable smartphones will expectedly be sold in 2028. That's a CAGR of 72 percent and sounds remarkable.
Of course, the first generation of foldable smartphones encountered their share of problems. This is not unusual with new technologies and with time, manufacturers will be able to crack it. Once the issue is resolved, the popularity of flexible displays will likely increase greatly. While such phones are going to be heavy on the pocket initially, early adopters will presumably not be deterred by that. However, the high Average Selling Prices (ASPs) is still expected to restrict growth.
Earlier, IDC's Bryan Ma termed foldable smartphones as overhyped and laid out his concerns regarding cost, yield, and reliability. A bigger screen alone is not guaranteed to miraculously revive demand unless the overall experience is also improved. This can be done by improving battery life and software integration, and encouraging developers to come up with apps that leverage the new form factor.
Tablets And Smartwatches With The New Form Factor Aren't Expected To Be That Popular
ABI Research doesn't expect that many tablets to come with flexible and rollable displays in the near future. Device vendors are first expected to concentrate their efforts on smartphones and if they get a warm response, then this form factor will be introduced on slates. So, do not expect the market to be flooded with foldable tablets until 2022-2024. After that, the sales of foldable tablets are expected to grow to 7 million by 2028.
In many ways, a foldable smartphone itself will be something of a tablet in its unfolded state. When the technology matures and adoption increases, people will virtually be carrying smartphone-tablet hybrids. There is a slight possibility that this can affect the demand for tablets and replace them altogether.
ABI Research says wearables with foldable displays will likely not take off as the form factor doesn't bode well with the accessory. Consumers expect wearables to be compact and thus there isn't a lot of scope for foldable and rollable displays in this segment. By 2028, the company only expects shipments of 5 million wearable devices with foldable displays.
The firm also notes that with time, the price of devices with foldable displays will also drop. When this happens, demand will increase and side by side, manufacturers will also continue to perfect the technology. These factors combined will expectedly increase the popularity of foldable displays.