Most Americans say they won’t buy a folding smartphone

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Xiaomi foldable phone
We're not exactly clamoring for one.
Photo: Lin Bin/Xioami

Someone thinks a foldable smartphone is a good idea. That person, for now, is not the consumer.

In a survey of 11,374 Americans, a whopping 82 percent of the respondents said they have no plans to purchase a foldable smartphone. That doesn’t mean companies need to shut the lid on the idea.

PCMag published the findings of a comprehensive survey that probed the minds of a fairly large sample group earlier this month.

PCMag survey on buying a foldable smartphone
There’s a few willing early adaptors in there.
Illustration: PCMag

The survey covered upcoming purchasing decisions, but several questions provided answers that suggested consumers are still marinating on the idea and could come around to a folding concept.

To paraphrase, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs famously observed that people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.

Foldable smartphone survey: For now, it’s a definite no

They survey shifted to the undecided and the few who said yes. Sixteen percent said they are undecided while 2 percent – the majority of those folks being between the age of 35-54 and with a comfortable amount of disposable income – said they are ready to buy one.

That leaves only a few choices. Samsung’s Galaxy Z Flip just went on sale for $1,379.99. Motorola’s Razr is due out sometime this year and is expected to retail around $1,500. The Huawei Mate X, for now, is only sold in China. It is the most expensive at $2,400.

All three failed to make it to their initial launch dates because of technical issues.

That raises two points in the survey that may reflect why the respondents aren’t keen on the idea: price and durability.

If a respondent said no, they were then screened out of the survey. This left 1,002 yeses or undecideds left to answer other questions.

Forty-four percent of those respondents said the price would have to be under $600 before they would consider a folding phone. Seven percent say they would pay between $1,000 and $1,200; 5 percent between $1,200 and $1,400 while 10 percent said they would pay more than $1,400.

Twenty-five percent expressed fear of the hinge breaking with 16 recent believing the hinge will eventually cram the screen from regular use. Another 18 percent see foldable phones as fragile and 24 percent wondered if a bigger screen would drain the battery.

The initial prices and reports of screen durability inspire little confidence in folding phones. But some data suggests thinking could shift.

Asked how necessary foldable phone designs are, a slight majority saw some necessity. A compact form factor, bigger screens and a belief foldable phones would perform faster were among the positives. Social recognition was a factor as well.

Source: PCMag