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Global Foldable Smartphone Shipment Projected to Hit 18.5 Million Units in 2023: Report

Annual global shipment of foldable smartphones will jump to 18.5 million units in 2023 compared to 12.8 million units in 2022, as per a recent report by market research firm Trendforce. With this trend, the market for hinges in foldable OLED smartphones is also increasing and it will reach $500 million (roughly Rs. 4,085 crore) this year. Foldable smartphones currently consist of teardrop-shaped hinges and U-shaped hinges and KH Vatech and S-connect are the key players in the sector. The foldable smartphone market includes flip and fold devices and the space is currently dominated by Samsung. The South Korean company last year introduced Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 and Galaxy Z Fold 4 as its latest models in its foldable lineup.

The report by TrendForce said that the worldwide annual foldable smartphone shipments that include both flip and fold form factors will touch 18.5 million units in 2023. In the last year, 12.8 million units were shipped globally. As per the data shared by the firm, Samsung enjoyed the lion’s share of the foldable smartphone space, with a market share of 82 percent last year. Increasing foldable handset sales are also elevating the market for hinges and value of the global market for hinges used in foldable OLED smartphones will rise by 14.6 percent year on year to reach above the level of $500 million for 2023.

Teardrop-shaped and U-shaped hinges are popularly used in foldable smartphones and Samsung uses the latter. Currently, KH Vatech and S-connect are providing hinges for the South Korean brand. But going forward, TrendForce predicts that Samsung will diversify its hinge suppliers to reduce expenses. Amphenol and Asia Vital Components (AVC) are the suppliers of teardrop-shaped hinges. Other smartphone brands using these hinges grabbed a total market share of 20 percent in 2022.

With the increasing demand for foldable handsets, brands are looking for light and strong composite materials for hinges to lower the device’s weight. TrendForce mentioned that Xiaomi’s Mix Fold 2 features carbon fibre composite and has a thickness of 11.2mm when folded. The Honor Magic Vs and Oppo Find N2 also use the same materials.

The firm also noted that panel makers are also involved in the development of foldable smartphone hinges. The CSOT has unveiled a “semi-set” production flow that integrates an OLED display module with the required hinges, bringing a one-piece component. These types of solutions will accelerate the product development cycle and ensure the optimisation of the product.

According to TrendForce, fold crease is the issue that is most brought up by users of foldable devices. The report points out that the display of a foldable smartphone does not completely fold flat when closed. Based on the hinge design, the foldable display will either turn into a “U” or a water-drop style design. The latter has a larger allowable screen perimeter than a U-shaped hinge, and the corresponding crease is less visible.

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