Are folding phones still the future of smartphones? Could we see more foldable displays in devices like tablets and laptops? And when is Samsung Pay coming to Ireland?
Dublin-born amsung Vice President Conor Pierce has some of the answers. The UK and Ireland tech giant’s mobile chief is in optimistic shape about the future of foldable smartphones, saying it could account for a quarter of the market within three years.
He also claims to be a convert and says he’s now replaced his laptop and tablet with a large, fold-out Galaxy Z Fold model.
Does that mean, I ask him, rather short e-mails?
“I’m not a big e-mail fan,” says the former Nokia Ireland boss. “I’d rather be there. I use it a lot with Microsoft Teams because then I can see something like my email or my calendar at the same time.”
It’s hard to gauge just how much of the market shares Mr. Pierce’s enthusiasm, but there are some clues. Samsung’s own sales of foldable devices in Ireland are up sevenfold so far this year, says Mr Pierce. Globally, the market segment has tripled in the last year to between 8 million and 10 million, depending on which analyst firm you believe.
On the other hand, folding phones had more than a few teething problems. Screen tech has taken a while to reach a comparable standard to regular flagship devices, with only the wealthy able to afford the beta experience at £1,000-2,500 per phone. And they are still faced with an existential question: What are they doing better? Even the largest models, which can be unfolded to almost 8 inches, cannot display videos larger than ordinary smartphones. None of them offer better cameras, battery life, or screen resolution than cheaper non-folding models. And while they’re slimmer and lighter than previous versions, the larger fold-out units are still pretty much the heaviest, bulkiest, and most expensive phones you can buy
This could be why Samsung is still the only mainstream smartphone company to actually market them, accounting for about 90 percent of industry sales. Apple remains non-binding while its only other possible major competitor, Huawei, has been effectively banned from selling phones in the West. The result is that clamshell phones still make up under 3 percent of global shipments — they may not have captured the public’s imagination yet.
But far from taking this as a warning of uncertain demand, Mr Pierce says Samsung is simply ahead of the market.
“I think the future will be foldable,” Pierce says. “I read somewhere that by 2025 about 27 percent of the total market will be foldable.”
The reason, he suggests, is a fundamental one. At a time when design, good cameras, long battery life, and big, high-quality screens have become a bit indistinguishable from most manufacturers, the Korean electronics giant believes its commitment to something truly original and different is well-placed to pay dividends .
To that end, the latest Galaxy Z Fold4 and Flip4 models were launched this week and feature improvements across most features (see separate reviews on Independent.ie). The larger Fold4 is designed as a sleek workhorse, sort of a 2020 version of the Galaxy Note that brought large-format phones into the mainstream. The smaller Flip4 is more about a sense of aesthetics and fun.
Crucially, even if the Fold4 is still the most expensive phone you can buy, prices are becoming more like regular flagship devices.
Pierce says everything is set for a great kickstart of the format after years of experimentation and retail disruption due to Covid.
“Last year we did a really good job of building general awareness of foldable devices with massive marketing investments,” he says. “But we weren’t able to convert that awareness into sales as many retail outlets were closed because of Covid. We know that when people get their hands on these, about 39 percent are more likely to buy. Last year just 5 per cent of retail outlets in Ireland had a handy foldable device on display. This year there are 72 pieces. That will make a big difference.”
Ireland and Great Britain are considered flagship markets
In Ireland, Samsung has sold around 600,000 “premium” phones, either Galaxy S or Note models, over the past four years. It has just over 40 percent market share behind Apple.
But Mr Pierce, who is one of Ireland’s most experienced executives in phone manufacturing after nearly 30 years in senior positions at Ericsson, Nokia and Samsung, believes the company is on the cusp of leading the next premium category. Ireland, he says, is the perfect place to see how things are going.
“Ireland and Great Britain are considered flagship markets,” he says. “They are very competitive. bonus [phones that sell for over €600] account for over 40pc of the Irish market. And it’s grown 5 percent over the past six months. So this is probably the most exciting time in my career for me. It’s something new, a bit like going from a keyboard phone to a touchscreen phone.”
It might not stop at phones, either.
“I don’t see why you couldn’t see foldable screens across multiple consumer products,” he says. “It’s a technology that will only mature in different form factors and sizes.”
While few would question Samsung’s overall display superiority, there are one or two other things that have left Irish fanbases wondering.
Why is Samsung Pay still not available here? It’s a bitter pill for those with Galaxy Watches, who see their Apple Watch counterparts sauntering in and out of a store without even having to go near their wallet or even their phone.
“We still haven’t landed it,” he says. “We are very interested, but it takes a lot of effort to reach independent agreements with each of the banks, which is the main obstacle for us.”
Samsung hopes to make progress on this “soon”, he adds.
Otherwise, the local tech giant, run by Nick Porter, has some ideas on how to develop its Irish business.
“Not that I’m biased, but it’s a phenomenal market,” says Mr. Pierce. “It’s an innovation hub. There is a huge opportunity there to try out commercial or partnership engagement or consumer initiatives. The team has done a great job and built strong relationships, but I really want to do a lot more trials and pilots in Ireland.”
https://www.independent.ie/business/technology/samsungs-conor-pierce-is-certain-the-future-for-phones-is-foldable-41903363.html Samsung’s Conor Pierce is certain the future for phones is foldable