When Samsung Electronics unveiled its first flexible display prototype in 2011, few realized they were witnessing a glimpse of the future of the mobile industry. Now, a decade later, Samsung shipped 4x more foldable devices in 2021 than in 2020, beating the triple market growth analysts expected.1
Consumer enthusiasm for Samsung foldables is exemplified by the success of the Galaxy Z series. In the first month since their launch, the Galaxy Z Fold3 and Z Flip3 topped the cumulative total sales of Samsung foldables in 2020.
With foldable smartphone shipments expected to increase tenfold by 2023,2 Let’s take a look at the key moments, key innovations, and important partnerships that helped make foldable devices the next big thing.
Bringing foldables to consumers around the world
Samsung may have first introduced the concept of foldable displays in 2011, but it would take more than a decade to bring foldable devices to consumers around the world.
The next big step came in 2019, when Samsung finally delivered on its foldable vision with the Galaxy Fold, its first foldable device. Soon after, the Galaxy Z Flip arrived. A sleek clamshell design – a throwback to the flip phones of yore – made the Galaxy Z Flip an instant icon.
After a decade of progress and three generations of innovation, the Galaxy Z Fold3 and Z Flip3 have brought increased durability and improved user experience to foldables. Not only did they set a new standard in the industry, but they revived consumer interest in smartphones in general.
Innovations behind the technology
From creating new materials and methods to solving mechanical problems, the creation of the foldable category forced Samsung to reinvent the smartphone from the inside out.
From the start, Samsung engineers understood that the key to creating a new category would be to invent a range of new technologies to ensure that devices would meet the expectations of global consumers.
The Infinity Flex Display and Samsung UTG, for example, enabled the world’s first folding glass display. While its screen may be one continuous piece of glass, a foldable’s body has two separate components. This unique structure meant that to maintain a design thin enough for everyday use, engineers had to completely rethink the placement of internal components. This challenge included designing a new internal cooling system as well as a dual-battery system with technology that optimizes multiple power sources into one.
To ensure that the devices would be able to withstand hundreds of thousands of bends, a Hideaway Hinge mechanism was designed with Sweeper technology to help keep out dust and dirt particles. The hinge has also added a new layer of functionality to Samsung foldables, allowing them to stand on their own, making them perfect for watching content, making video calls or taking hands-free selfies.
Samsung’s dedication to creating new foldable innovations saw it achieve another major milestone in 2021 with the release of the Galaxy Z Fold3 and Z Flip3 – the first foldables to receive an IPX8 water resistance rating.
But the features that set Samsung foldables apart aren’t all hidden beneath the surface. With App Continuity – a responsive user interface that offers seamless transitions between folded and unfolded modes – and features like Multi-Active Window and Flex Mode, Samsung foldables have opened up new ways for us to work, play and to express ourselves.
Driving consumer demand for foldable devices
This unprecedented push for innovation has sparked a growing demand for foldable devices, attracting more users to the Galaxy family than ever before. Compared to the Galaxy Note20, Samsung saw 150%3 increase in consumers switching smartphone brands to Galaxy Z Flip3, and a 140% increase from Galaxy S21.
A simple explanation for this massive increase is that the two Galaxy Z series devices offer distinct features that appeal to specific customer groups in a way that no other smartphone has before.
A consumer survey conducted by Samsung revealed that sleek design, portability and an innovative foldable form factor were the main drivers of Galaxy Z Flip3 purchases. The ability to use the cover screen without opening the device was another important factor for those who value privacy, as well as those who want to regulate their screen time to manage their mental health. Galaxy Z Fold3 buyers, meanwhile, said they were drawn to its large screen for viewing content, multitasking capabilities and productivity features, including the S Pen.4 Ultimately, it’s clear that both devices are more incentivizing consumers to switch to a foldable than ever, even if that means switching brands or operating systems.
Innovative the future foldable
As more consumers realize the incredible potential of foldables, interest in the category will continue to grow. With a variety of consumer-facing innovations in the years to come, Samsung will continue to lead the foldable category with even more pioneering technology.
To achieve this goal, Samsung invests heavily in R&D while openly collaborating with app developers and industry partners such as Google.
For years, Samsung and Google have worked together to make the foldable experience scalable by providing Android developers with the necessary framework and resources. In 2021, the companies announced guidelines for building apps for large-screen and foldable devices, building on Google’s work to optimize its most popular apps – such as Gmail, YouTube, Duo and Maps. – for foldable form factors. Going forward, Samsung will continue to work with partners and developers to develop technologies that will drive the future of the mobile industry.
By creating an entirely new mobile category ten years ago, Samsung raised the bar for mobile innovation. Looking to the next decade and beyond, the company will continue to reinvent the mobile experience to change what’s possible as they unfold.
1 According to figures from Search for counterpoint
2 According to figures from Search for counterpoint
3 Samsung’s massive data center
4 Only the main screen of Galaxy Z Fold3 has the S Pen function. Only compatible with S Pen Fold Edition or S Pen Pro, sold separately.