Huawei Unveils New Foldable, Apple’s Next?

Huawei Launches Its New Foldable Device as Apple’s Foldable iPhone Faces Another Setback

As rumors surfaced about Apple’s foldable iPhone being delayed once again, Huawei has made a new stride in the foldable screen arena with its latest offering.

On February 22nd, Huawei unveiled the Huawei Pocket 2, marking its latest foray into the vertical folding device category. This device is Huawei’s third iteration of vertical folding smartphones, marking a significant update to its lineup after more than a year. Unlike its predecessors, the P50 Pocket and Pocket S, which were equipped with Qualcomm Snapdragon 4G chips, Huawei did not disclose the processor details for the Pocket 2 at its launch event. However, it is anticipated that like the Mate 60 series, this new model would be powered by the Kirin chipset.

The foldable screen market has continued to grow against the grain. According to market research firm IDC, the shipment volume of foldable screen phones in China reached approximately 7.007 million units in 2023, up 114.5% year-on-year, starkly contrasting with the 5% decline across the entire industry. Since the debut of its first product in 2019, the foldable screen market in China has maintained a year-over-year growth rate of over 100% for four consecutive years.

Despite the booming market, not all players are equally optimistic. While brands like Huawei and Samsung are leading with a diverse range of foldable devices, Apple’s foldable screen has yet to make an appearance. Moreover, recent leaks suggest that among the top five manufacturers, one major player has paused its foldable screen project, and two others have halted their vertical folding device development.

Image source: Observer Network

Can Huawei’s New Foldable Recreate the Success of Its Larger Counterparts?

The Huawei Pocket 2 stands as the third vertical foldable phone by Huawei, following the high-end Mate 60 and Mate X5 series, attracting considerable attention before its launch. Given Huawei’s dominant position in the foldable screen market share within China, industry watchers are keen to see if the Pocket 2 can replicate the success of its larger foldable devices, like the Mate X5, which have become bestsellers.

The target demographic for this compact foldable phone includes young women from tier-1 cities. Their primary needs revolve around leisure, aesthetics, and fun, rather than productivity, focusing on design, imaging capabilities, interaction, and portability. Winning over this demographic is crucial for the Pocket 2’s sales, a strategy well understood by Huawei.

At the launch event, Huawei’s CEO of Consumer Business Group, Richard Yu, highlighted the Pocket 2’s lightweight design, weighing just 199 grams, lighter than the iPhone 15 Pro Max’s 221 grams, with a larger unfolded screen size of 6.94 inches compared to the latter’s 6.7 inches. The Pocket 2 also boasts advanced aesthetics with its unique finish options, including the use of P60 series’ concentrated light Paua shell craft, and introduces the Pocket 2 Art Custom Edition.

Live demonstration at the launch event.

In the ever-competitive smartphone camera space, the Pocket 2 elevates its imaging capabilities with the industry’s first full focal length XMAGE quad-camera setup, featuring a 50MP ultra-sensing main sensor with a large F1.6 aperture, delivering the largest light intake for a compact foldable and the first 3x optical telephoto lens in this category, supporting an 80mm golden portrait focal length.

As for interactivity, while competitors like OPPO and vivo offer larger external screens on their compact foldables, the Pocket 2 continues with its signature circular secondary screen, adding the industry’s first LTPO always-on display external screen, featuring animated pet themes, personalized avatars, and live info cards.

One notable improvement in the Pocket 2 is its hinge design, which significantly reduces the visibility and impact of the crease when unfolded—a feature that was demonstrated at the event.

Image source: Observer Network

While compact foldables may not be the ideal productivity tool, as a high-end product, they ought to offer flagship functionalities and quality. The Huawei Pocket 2 incorporates numerous features previously exclusive to larger foldables, including intuitive communication, dual-direction Beidou satellite messaging, and the Harmony OS 4 system. In terms of battery life, the device is equipped with a 4520mAh silicon-anode battery. The Pocket 2’s screen peak brightness also surpasses that of the iPhone 15 Pro Max, supplied by BOE and CSOT.

Pricing for the Huawei Pocket 2 is set higher than its predecessor, with the 12GB+256GB model priced at 7,499 yuan, about 1,000 yuan more than the Pocket S’s 8GB+256GB version, and the 12GB+512GB model at 7,999 yuan, approximately 500 yuan more than the Pocket S’s corresponding version. The Pocket 2 Art Custom Edition, featuring 16GB+1TB, is priced at 10,999 yuan.

Pocket 2 specifications showcased by third-party testing software. Image source: Observer Network

When Will Apple Join the Foldable Market? Shifts in the Android Camp?

Just days before Huawei’s Pocket 2 launch, rumors emerged about another delay for Apple’s foldable iPhone.

American media outlet The Information reported that Apple is testing a vertical foldable smartphone similar to the Pocket 2. However, production plans are postponed as the screen panels have not yet achieved the “ideal state.” Earlier rumors suggested that the foldable iPhone might debut as soon as the fall of 2025.

While it’s unclear whether Apple’s rigorous testing standards or the quality of Samsung’s panels are to blame, data from DSCC indicates a shift in the foldable screen panel market, with BOE overtaking Samsung in market share in Q4 2023.

As of now, Apple remains the only mainstream brand without a foldable phone. Despite not having entered the foldable market, Apple secured the highest global shipping volume last year, demonstrating strong financial performance without the immediate need for a foldable device. However, Apple faces increasing challenges from other brands pushing for innovation.

Meanwhile, Chinese brands continue to innovate with foldable screens, seeking to challenge Apple’s hold on the high-end market. According to IDC, Huawei leads China’s foldable screen market with a 37.4% share, followed by OPPO and Honor, leaving Samsung with a mere 11% share.

Image source: Observer Network

While the foldable screen market shows rapid growth, it remains a niche sector with a long journey ahead to match traditional smartphones. Recent industry forecasts suggest that by 2027, foldable phone shipments could exceed 100 million units, potentially representing over 40% of the high-end smartphone market. This indicates that even top players like Apple will need to make strategic decisions regarding foldable technology sooner rather than later.

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