Foldable phones to hit 30 million units by 2023, says Gartner

Foldable phones are one wrinkle in a global device demand forecast that appears to be lumpy through 2023.

Foldable phones grab all the headlines, but are they that useful? The Samsung Galaxy Fold and the Huawei Mate X have certainly got people talking - and that's exactly what device manufacturers want. But is there a real use case for foldable phones?

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Foldable phones will represent 5 percent of the high-end smartphone market by 2023; more PCs will be retired but not replaced; and the global device market is going to sputter.

Those are the takeaways from Gartner's latest global device forecast through 2023.

The forecast incorporates moving parts like corporate Windows 10 adoption, foldable phones and upgrade cycles. 

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The key points via Gartner:

  • Foldable phones will hit 30 million units in 2023 with Gartner forecasting a burst and then slowing long-term adoption due to tradeoffs. A bevy of device makers such as Samsung and Huawei have shown off foldable phone designs. Gartner analyst Robert Cozza said:

We expect that users will use a foldable phone as they do their regular smartphone, picking it up hundreds of times a day, unfolding it sporadically and typing on its plastic screen, which may scratch quickly depending on the way it folds," said Ms. Cozza. "Through the next five years, we expect foldable phones to remain a niche product due to several manufacturing challenges. In addition to the surface of the screen, the price is a barrier despite we expect to decline with time. Currently priced at $2,000, foldable phones present too many trade-offs, even for many early technology adopters.

  • Shipments of mobile phones will hit 1.8 billion units in 2019, down 0.5 percent from a year ago. High-end phones will continue to decline.
  • In 2020, mobile phones will return to growth of 1.2 percent.
  • Traditional PCs will decline 3 percent in 2019 to total 189 million units. Overall PC shipments will come in at 258 million in 2019, down 0.6 percent.
  • Windows 10 will represent 75 percent of the professional PC market by 2021.