Samsung didn’t really sell 1 million Galaxy Folds, but does it matter?

2019 established that foldable devices have a place in the market, but it may take longer than 2020 to see whether that remains a tiny niche of the estimated 1.4 billion phones sold each year.

Galaxy Fold shop
Galaxy Fold shop

I didn’t trust yesterday’s report that Samsung has sold over 1 million $2,000 Galaxy Fold smartphones.


It was impossible to accept the big number — $2 billion in revenue from a foldable device that famously suffered through extended post-announcement redesign delays — or the implicit suggestions that Samsung confidently went on to manufacture a million of them, or somehow convinced a million people to buy devices at that price even after multiple preorder cancellations.

It took Samsung nearly a day to counter the claim, but overnight, South Korea’s Yonhap (via the Korea Herald) reported that the company is now denying “media reports” of the number. Those “media reports,” incidentally, were based on a quote from Samsung Corporate President and Chief Strategy Officer Young Sohn, who publicly said:

“And I think that the point is, we’re selling [a] million of these products. There’s a million people that want to use this product at $2,000.”

The math never worked for me, in part because I recalled that Samsung had previously estimated that it would sell only 500,000 Galaxy Folds this year — still a large number given that price tag. And it’s not just Samsung; I similarly doubted that Huawei would match or exceed Samsung’s sales with its own foldable device, Mate X, which has an even higher ($2,600) price tag and was delayed for similar reasons to the Galaxy Fold.

In other words, 2019 won’t be the first year for any company — or all companies put together — to sell a million foldable phones. It took the better part of this year for completely working physical versions of devices like this to begin appearing at trade shows and/or stores. But I’ll be very surprised if at least one of those million sales milestones isn’t reached in 2020.

Ahead of the nearly simultaneous Mate X and Galaxy Fold Foldable Phone announcements this year, the very idea of a folding phone seemed gimmicky and rushed. It wasn’t so much that people weren’t ready for the concept, but rather that there were fundamental questions about the hardware, software, use cases, and rumored pricing that had yet to be answered. If one of those companies, or a rival such as Apple, had emerged with the right product at the right price on day one, I could easily have seen a foldable phone market developing — like for the original iPad — almost overnight.