SEOUL, July 28 (Yonhap) -- 2023 will mark a major turning point for Samsung Electronics' smartphone business, its mobile chief said Friday, with a goal to push up the portion of foldable phones to more than 20 percent of Galaxy flagship sales worldwide.
"This year will serve as a tipping point for Samsung to make foldable phones a mainstream product," Roh Tae-moon, president and head of Samsung Electronics' mobile business, said at a press briefing in Seoul.
In the next few years, sales of foldable phones could "hit 100 million units a year worldwide," he added, citing various reports by industry research firms.
Since Samsung first introduced the new form factor in 2019, more companies have joined the high-end segment, including Google and Motorola, and the manufacturing ecosystem has expanded, which he said demonstrated the possibility of foldables becoming a mainstream product.
On Wednesday, Samsung held Galaxy Unpacked, its biannual global product launch event, in Seoul for the first time in its home country, to unveil its fifth edition of foldable smartphones, the Galaxy Z Flip 5 and Fold 5, among others.
The Galaxy Z Fold 5 became slimmer and lighter, with a new hinge system, and the Galaxy Z Flip 5 came with a full-cover screen that allows users to do more without flipping open the phone.
By 2025, Samsung seeks to raise the portion of foldable phones to half of its total smartphone sales, making them another pillar of the company, alongside the Galaxy S flagship series, and a key category in the premium segment.
According to market researcher Canalys, Samsung accounted for approximately 77 percent of foldable phone shipments worldwide last year.
Foldable phone shipments are expected to reach 21.4 million units this year, up more than 50 percent from a year ago, as consumers start to embrace the new form factor, the International Data Corp. said. By 2027, the figure could reach 48.1 million, it estimated, driven by "a healthy demand for this growing form factor."
Roh said Samsung's priority lies in turning foldable phones into mass-market products. When and if the company achieves the goal, profits will naturally follow, he added.
To reach a far wider audience, he said his company has been cooperating with global partners to reduce the cost of manufacturing foldable phones.
"We are working under challenging business conditions, but we have vast experience and know-how of working through such difficulties to create innovative products," Roh said. "We will try to ride out difficulties in the second half."
Samsung has sold nearly 10 million foldable phones since it launched the previous models last summer, he said. He expected the latest Fold and Flip series to help the firm consolidate its leading position in the market, without giving a specific sales target for the new models.
In South Korea, where adoption rates of the new form factor are among the highest in the world, Samsung aims to make foldable phones one of three Galaxy flagship smartphone sales this year.
The new launch came a day before Samsung announced its earnings results for the second quarter.
On Thursday, Samsung reported a 95 percent fall in operating profit for the three months ending in June, as macroeconomic woes have taken a toll on demand for chips used in electronic gadgets from mobile phones to computers to cars.
The mobile division logged a profit of 3.04 trillion won, down from the 3.94 trillion won from the previous quarter, as the effect of the Galaxy S23 launch in February faded.
With the launch of the Galaxy Z Fold 5 and Flip 5, Samsung hopes to cement its leading position in the premium phone segment before rival Apple releases new phones in the fall.
Samsung expects the smartphone market to "return to year-on-year growth, especially in the premium market," in the second half.
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