Chinese smartphone manufacturer Honor unveiled its first foldable smartphone, the Magic V, as it mounts a challenge in a next-generation sector projected to gain traction as user adoption grows.
The release from the former budget brand of technology conglomerate Huawei Technologies kicks off an interesting year for the foldable device category, as more manufacturers are expected to flood the market with new or refreshed takes on a category that has been slow to take off.
“Honor has strong ambitions to become the top-performing smartphone brand in the premium foldable market and we are confident our first flagship foldable will be very competitive compared with existing models,” George Zhao, chief executive of Honor Device, said on Wednesday.
The foldable smartphone market is projected to grow from $15.83 billion in 2021 to $69.91bn in 2028, at a compound annual rate of 20.4 per cent, according to the latest statistics from Coherent Market Insights.
The smartphone market would have grown faster if the Covid-19 pandemic – which disrupted supply chains – had not created a crisis in the chip market and forced manufacturers to shut down or suspend operations, the report said.
Lockdowns across the world also affected demand for these products.
Coherent forecasts that the smartphone market will be driven by a higher demand for advanced consumer electronics along with high adoption in entertainment and gaming industries. Asia-Pacific is expected to lead this growth.
Honor's Magic V bears a resemblance to Samsung's Galaxy Z Fold series, but is trying to one-up it on a number of fronts, including a bigger 7.9-inch main display, four cameras and longer battery life. It also claims to come without a crease at the centre of the screen where it folds.
It is also the first foldable device to use Qualcomm's newest Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chipset and ships with Android 12 installed.
The company said the device will be launched in China, but with no mention of a global release. An Honor official told device aggregator GSMArena that it has yet to decide on a launch outside its home country.
The device joins a market that is becoming increasingly crowded. The first commercially available foldable smartphone was the FlexPai from Chinese company Royole in 2018, while the first major brand to release one was Samsung Electronics with its original Galaxy Fold a year later.
Huawei's first foldable, the Mate X, was released later in 2019, initially only in China before being distributed to other markets.
South Korea's Samsung remained unchallenged in the market until other companies – most notably Chinese brands – released their own models, including those from Xiaomi and Oppo, as well as US company Motorola and even Microsoft.
Samsung had a commanding 73 per cent market share in 2020, when about 2.8 million foldable phones were shipped.
Honor was founded in 2013 as part of Huawei's Consumer Business Group. It manufactures smartphones mainly targeted at younger consumers, and has expanded to making laptops, tablets and wearable devices.
In November 2020, Huawei sold off Honor to a consortium of over 30 entities led by handset distributor China Digital and the government of its home town Shenzhen in a deal worth $15.2 billion.