According to a news report from IJIWEI, as the supply chain reveals, three major Chinese smartphone manufacturers, Huawei, Honor, and Transsion, are estimating an active shipment goal of 70-80 million units in 2024. This estimate accounts for approximately 5% in the global smartphone market.
On the other hands, memory manufacturers are expected to continue pushing for price increases in 2024, as demand from smartphone customers becomes more proactive in the fourth quarter.
Reportedly, the supply chain estimates that due to U.S. restrictions, Huawei’s smartphone shipments are confined to the domestic Chinese market. It is projected that new device shipments for 2024 could see growth in the range of 20-30 million units.
Honor, with a potential 300% increase in overseas smartphone shipments in the first three quarters of 2023, coupled with the success of the Magic V2 foldable smartphone, aims to continue the momentum with a growth projection of 20 million units in 2024.
Transsion estimates a growth of 30 million units in smartphone shipments in 2024, making it the only brand currently challenging double-digit growth.
Previously, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo from Tianfeng International Securities indicated in a report that Huawei is expected to launch a new flagship series, the P70, in the first half of 2024. Benefiting from upgraded camera specifications and the adoption of the in-house designed Kirin chip, the shipment volume of the models under Huawei’s P70 series is expected to see significant growth in 2024 compared to the 4–5 million units of the models under the P60 series in 2023.
If the current robust demand for replenishing smartphone inventory continues into the first half of 2024, the shipment volume of the P70 series is expected to show strong year-on-year growth of about 230%, reaching 13-15 million units for 2024. Even if the demand for inventory replenishment slows down in the first half of 2024, the shipment volume of the P70 series is still expected to experience significant year-on-year growth of 150%, reaching 10-12 million units for 2024.
(Photo credit: Huawei)
Please note that this article cites information from IJIWEI.
The global smartphone market has seen a continuous decline for nine consecutive quarters, with only the foldable phone category remaining resilient and maintaining growth. Android smartphone manufacturers seem to view this category as a lifeline, having released a total of 13 new foldable phones in the past three months, setting a record for the number of new foldable phones introduced in half a year.
The intensified release of foldable phone models not only reflects the sense of urgency among smartphone manufacturers but also signifies a shift towards foldable technology in the mobile industry.
Currently, the foldable phone market is not as well-established as the traditional flat-screen market, presenting opportunities and variables. All Android manufacturers aim to leverage foldable phones to enhance their market positioning, achieve high-end differentiation, and engage in distinctive competition with Apple.
In fact, during the third quarter, there were subtle changes in the landscape of the foldable phone market in China according to IJIWEI’s report. Huawei, which once dominated the foldable phone market, has seen its market share decline. OPPO and Honor have managed to surpass Huawei in terms of sales volume in the flip-fold and single-product categories.
Next year, Huawei and Samsung plan to introduce more competitively priced foldable phones, and other Android manufacturers are expected to follow suit, driving accelerated expansion in the foldable phone market.
13 New Foldable Phones Launched in 3 Months
In the latter half of this year, smartphone manufacturers including Honor, OPPO, Xiaomi, Samsung, Huawei and Transsion, have been on a roll, releasing a remarkable 13 new foldable phones within just three months. This surge in foldable phone launches has almost doubled the number of foldable devices introduced in the first half of the year.
Each smartphone manufacturer has focused on different aspects of foldable phones. Honor has been particularly aggressive in the foldable phone market, introducing three new models in just four months, constantly pushing the boundaries of thinness. In July, Honor managed to reduce the thickness of foldable phones to the millimeter era with a body thickness of 9.9mm.
In September, the Honor V Purse, an outward folding phone, had a body thickness of 8.6mm in its folded state and weighed only 214g, once again setting a new record for slim foldable phones in the market. In October, the Honor Magic Vs2 weighed 229g, refreshing the record for slim large-sized inward folding phones.
On the other hand, OPPO and Xiaomi have emphasized the imaging performance of their foldable phones. In addition, Samsung, Huawei, Transsion, OnePlus, and other manufacturers have each introduced innovative models like the Galaxy Z Flip 5/Fold 5, Samsung W24/W24 Flip, OnePlus Open, Huawei Mate X5, and PHANTOM V Flip 5G, incorporating cutting-edge technology into foldable phones and significantly enhancing the foldable phone experience. This surge in foldable phone innovation has become one of the standout features in this year’s smartphone market.
Reasons for the Proliferation of Foldable Phones
Recent intense launches of new foldable phones by smartphone manufacturers reflect their strong sense of urgency in the Android market.
Global smartphone markets have been persistently sluggish, declining for nine consecutive quarters due to factors like inflation, market saturation, and longer upgrade cycles. Traditional flat smartphones are no longer able to drive sustained market growth, and the smartphone market is in need of new growth engines.
Foldable phones, with their differentiated form and innovative experiences, have the potential to stimulate consumer upgrades, and smartphone manufacturers have high hopes for them, leading to the frequent release of new foldable phone models.
Currently, foldable phones are considered high-end products, and the intense launch of new foldable phone models by Android smartphone manufacturers is aimed at achieving brand premiumization and establishing differentiation from Apple.
In an effort to break through the high-end market stronghold that Apple has established, Android smartphone manufacturers, led by Samsung, have not only upgraded their high-end flat smartphones but have also been actively promoting foldable phone innovations, different from the iPhone 15 series. They aim to stimulate consumer upgrades and attract more high-end users who value large-screen experiences.
Price Key to Boosting Foldable Smartphone Penetration
In recent months, Android smartphone manufacturers have been consistently releasing new foldable phone models, driving up foldable phone sales and contributing to increased market penetration in the high-end smartphone segment during the latter half of the year.
Supply chain sources have also revealed that Samsung is planning to bring foldable phones to the mid-range market next year, further reducing price barriers and making foldable phones more accessible to a broader range of consumers.
This year, the lowest price for foldable phones has already dropped to 3,659 yuan (RMB), setting a new record. In the upcoming year, more manufacturers will introduce higher-value foldable phone products, thus accelerating the broader adoption of foldable phones.
TrendForce believes that the driving force behind the foldable market’s expansion is the reduced costs and the expansion strategies of Chinese brands.
Looking at TrendForce’s estimated numbers , by 2023, shipments of foldable smartphones could skyrocket to an impressive 18.3 million units, marking a 43% YoY surge. However, this only captures a slim 1.6% of the year’s total smartphone market. Fast forward to 2024, a 38% growth is anticipated, translating to a hefty 25.2 million units and nudging the market share up to 2.2%.
Looking at the medium to long term, TrendForce believes the expansion of the foldable smartphone market is inevitable. By 2027, shipments could soar to a whopping 70 million units, seizing around 5% of the global smartphone market.
At the same time, foldable phone manufacturers are exploring new product forms and driving advancements in end-user applications. While there are certain limitations in terms of size for dual-foldable screen phones, many companies have already started working on triple-foldable screen products.
Recent reports from industry insiders suggest that Huawei’s development of a triple-foldable screen phone is progressing smoothly and may be ready for launch before March next year. It’s expected that two triple-foldable screen phones will be introduced in 2024.
On the other hand, Apple’s strategy for foldable devices differs from many Android phone manufacturers, as they are more focused on mature products and not in a hurry to release foldable phones.
According to TrendForce’s research, to date, Apple’s foray into foldables has been tepid due to Apple’s unwavering obsession with user experience.
Persistent challenges with foldable tech—think panel evenness and hinge design—might be holding them back. Still, achieving perfection with larger foldable panels is somewhat simpler than their smaller counterparts. The possibility for Apple to leapfrog right into medium-sized foldable products – like laptops or tablets – still remains.
According to IJIWEI’s report, as the return of Huawei intensifies competition in the Chinese market, Chinese smartphone manufacturers such as OPPO and Transsion are venturing into the Southeast Asian market, a move that is expected to pave the way for sales recovery in the coming year.
In September this year, OPPO hosted a global launch event in Singapore for two high-end foldable smartphones, the Find N3 and N3 Flip.
Elvis Zhou, Chief Marketing Officer for OPPO’s overseas division, stated that the smartphone industry is expected to make a recovery in 2024 and 2025, with foldable smartphones playing a crucial role. While shipment volumes may not be as high, foldable smartphones have been growing at a rate of over 100% annually, and their average selling prices far exceed those of regular smartphones, creating significant value. This is why OPPO is fully committed to foldable phones.
Andy Shi, President of OPPO’s Asia-Pacific region, emphasized Singapore’s significance as a pivotal hub with substantial economic and political influence in the Southeast Asian region. He pointed out that a large number of high-end smartphone users who frequently travel for work are key influencers in this area.
The decision to launch OPPO products in Singapore is aimed at leveraging this advantage for further market development. Despite existing macroeconomic uncertainties, Andy Shi expresses optimism, anticipating moderate growth in the Asia-Pacific region for the upcoming year.
Furthermore, Tecno, a subsidiary of Transsion Holdings that has been known for its long-term focus on entry-level smartphone models in Africa, has recently introduced its latest foldable smartphone in Singapore, marking its debut in the Southeast Asian market.
According to TrendForce’s data, Transsion, along with its subsidiaries Tecno, Infinix, and itel, has not only outperformed Vivo but also claimed the fifth position in the global market during Q2. The company’s growth trajectory is expected to sustain its momentum in Q3.
Regarding the development of the folding phone market, TrendForce has also stated in a previous press release that shipments are poised to surge dramatically to 18.3 million units, marking a 43% year-on-year increase by 2023. Nevertheless, this only constitutes a modest 1.6% of the total smartphone market for the year. Looking ahead to 2024, the growth is expected to continue, with a 38% increase, resulting in a substantial 25.2 million units and pushing the market share to 2.2%.
In recent times, Transsion Holdings, often referred to as the “African King” in the smartphone industry, has voluntarily disclosed a performance forecast on its official website. According to estimates from its financial department, Transsion is projected to achieve a net profit attributable to the parent company owner of approximately 1.58 billion Chinese Yuan (CNY) in the second quarter of 2023, marking a substantial 84% increase compared to the same period in 2022.
Perspective from TrendForce:
Improved conditions in certain regional markets have facilitated Transsion’s growth, though the growth rate is approached with caution.
In contrast to most Chinese brands that primarily target the domestic market, Transsion has maintained a sales focus on overseas markets. Building on its pioneering advantage by being among the first to enter the African market, Transsion established its position as the market leader. To mitigate the risks associated with dependence on a single market, the company also expanded into emerging markets like India. This strategic approach has contributed to Transsion’s potential for profit growth this time.
Based on the disclosed information, Transsion attributes the increase in profitability primarily to improvements in emerging markets’ economic conditions, leading to increased product sales. However, from a market perspective, the internally estimated 84% growth rate might be based on a relatively optimistic scenario.
Further analysis suggests that the term “emerging markets” here likely refers not to the Middle East and Africa, which have historically represented a significant portion of Transsion’s revenue, but more likely points to the Indian market.
Despite adjustments made by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in their economic outlooks for the Middle East and Africa, factors like high inflation in countries such as Turkey in the Middle East and Egypt in North Africa have weakened consumer purchasing power. In such an economic environment with declining growth, consumers are likely to feel pessimistic about their future disposable income, resulting in reduced non-essential expenditures such as buying smartphones.
In the case of the Indian market, it has benefited from an economic recovery following a slowdown caused by the pandemic, coupled with a trend of foreign investment shifting away from China as a manufacturing hub. Increased exports have driven GDP growth in India, translating to higher disposable incomes for consumers.
However, despite the seemingly promising outlook for India’s smartphone market, competition is fierce, with brands like Samsung and Xiaomi already occupying a significant market share. As a newcomer to the market, Transsion faces challenges in achieving substantial performance growth amid this intense competitive landscape.
China remains the largest market for smartphones, indicating short-term market recovery remains challenging.
Transsion’s focus on expanding into overseas markets outside of China has opened doors for potential growth. When examining global smartphone revenue by regional markets, China still reigns as the largest single-country market, contributing nearly a quarter of the company’s revenue. However, a closer look at China’s recent macroeconomic performance reveals a youth unemployment rate surpassing 20%, reaching a staggering 21.3%.
Given the rising unemployment rate, it can be inferred that consumers may hold pessimistic expectations for their future disposable income. Moreover, as the smartphone market matures and innovation becomes scarce, the lack of growth momentum in China’s market suggests that the overall smartphone market may continue to struggle to recover in the short term.
Although the global smartphone market is becoming increasingly saturated, it is still worth looking forward to demand in emerging markets such as Southeast Asia and Africa when caught in an environment with limited momentum. . Due to the recent expansion of infrastructure construction in Africa, the regional smartphone market has the opportunity to replicate the prior development path of Thailand, Vietnam, and Indonesia. TrendForce forecasts total smartphone shipments in Africa to reach approximately 107 million units in 2022. Sub-Saharan Africa, which accounts for 78% of Africa’s total population, holds the greatest potential and countries such as Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal, and Tanzania are worthy of attention.
Taking the Sahara Desert as a natural barrier, North Africa cleaves closer to Europe and the Middle East, modernizing earlier, and possessing higher GDP per capita and relatively greater spending power. Looking at Egypt, its mainstream smartphone brands in 2021 were Samsung, OPPO, and Xiaomi. As for Africa south of the Sahara, taking Nigeria as an example, mainstream brands are TECNO, Infinix, and Itel, which is very different from the Egyptian market. TECNO, Infinix, and Itel are owned by Transsion Holdings of China and, in terms of the overall African smartphone market, Transsion Holdings is already dominant. These three brands captured an estimated combined market share of approximately 52% in 2021, eclipsing Samsung’s 15%.
TrendForce believes that mainstream mobile phone brands in Africa are very different from markets in Europe, North America, and East Asia and are mainly influenced by factors such as local spending power, communication services, and user needs, while mobile phone pricing is undoubtedly the decisive factor. For example, approximately 60% of smartphones sold in Egypt are priced between $100 and $200. While in sub-Saharan Africa, excluding a few countries with high GDP per capita such as Gabon and South Africa, most smartphones are sold at below US$100 in the market. However, from the perspective of mainstream global smartphone brands, the price of low-end smartphones is still higher than US$160 which remains quite unaffordable for the majority of local consumers. This pricing gap gives TECNO, Infinix, and Itel more room to operate.
In addition, the reason Transsion Holdings’ brands can dominate the African smartphone market includes many localized marketing strategies in addition to price factors. For example, cleaving close to local consumption habits, setting up physical sales locations, launching models that support 4 sim cards to meet the needs of users with multiple phone numbers, or installing large-capacity batteries in low-end mobile phones to reduce the inconvenience of frequent searches for charging stations, all of which help to enhance the competitive strength of the Transsion brand. Transsion Holdings is expected to continue leading the African market from 2022 to 2025.