As the flagship smartphone segment to encompass foldable smartphones continues to expand, South Africa is becoming a favoured destination to launch these devices.
One of the Chinese smartphone brands, Honor, is planning to bring its latest device to South Africa next year, the foldable Magic V smartphone which debuted at Mobile World Congress 2023.
The president of Honor MEA, Daniel Wang made the revelation while speaking to South African media in Dubai last month. He mentioned that the company is planning on bringing its full range of products, including flagships such as its latest Magic V2 foldable smartphone, to the country. He didn’t share further details on the plans to launch locally, but he noted that 100 000 pre-orders were received within the first few hours of the Magic V2’s launch in China.
Smartphone original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), such as Samsung, Huawei and Oppo, have also launched foldable devices in the South African market. The Counterpoint market research firm has reported a strong global foldable smartphone growth, with shipments expected to quadruple between 2022 and 2025, to reach 55 million units. It shows that China, North America, Europe and South Korea currently have the biggest foldable smartphone markets in the world, collectively accounting for over 80% of the global market in 2022.
Counterpoint goes on to add that foldable smartphones are now playing a big role in the declining global smartphone market, exhibiting strong growth in 2022, albeit from a low base.
The senior research analyst at IDC, Arnold Ponela, mentions that these smartphones are beginning to draw consumer attention, with shipments gradually increasing each year. “The adoption of foldable devices continues to grow, despite the initial setback we witnessed with the first batch of foldables unveiled back in 2019, which featured high price points and build quality issues.
“Despite their small market share, foldables represent a major opportunity for vendors. From the consumer point of view, foldables represent the most innovative visual change to happen to smartphones, and therefore it is a segment that cannot be ignored by vendors.”
Cellucity Group director, Christopher Henschel, noted that the foldable market in South Africa is still relatively niche, since the devices attract a relatively high price premium. “Foldables represent a very small fraction of the market at present, as they are focused on the upper-end, premium sector, with most devices in excess of R25 000, topping out at around R50 000.
While the form factor has distinct advantages, the current technology being used still tends to leave the devices on the bulkier side, which is a key consideration for many potential users.”
According to Ponela, the the high price point remains one of the major inhibitors of the category’s overall growth, as prices are elevated compared with standard smartphones. “Foldables remain nearly three times higher in price than non-foldable devices, which is a hard sell to the average consumer, particularly in a developing market like SA.
Even though Samsung has controlled most of the market, new vendors have made announcements regarding the launch of upcoming foldable products. Increased competition will help drive prices down and improve product builds, as consumers will have more options for foldables.”
Henschel adds: “As the technology improves and the devices become more attractive and useable, we will see the economies of scale making the tech more affordable and moving into the mid-tier sector. It will, of course, be a game-changer should/or when Apple starts looking at the form factor, to drive demand even more.”