What just happened? Shipments of foldable smartphones, which include both flip and fold form factors, reached 7.1 million units in 2021 according to a recent report from International Data Corporation (IDC). That's an increase of 264.3 percent over the 1.9 million units that shipped the previous year, but there's still a lot of ground to cover before foldables will be considered serious competitors to traditional slab smartphones.

With 7.1 million units shipped, foldables represented just 0.5 percent of the overall smartphone market share in 2021. IDC projects foldable phone shipments could reach 27.6 million units in 2025 with a market value of $29 billion. Should that forecast come to fruition, foldables would still only account for 1.8 percent of the smartphone market in 2025.

Foldable smartphones are slowly but surely gaining traction with consumers, thanks in large part to efforts by Samsung.

Samsung's Galaxy Z Flip3 effectively lowered the cost barrier for many buyers without sacrificing quality or otherwise compromising the overall experience afforded by a foldable. Launched last August, the handset starts at $999.99 - not exactly cheap, but far less expensive than the first wave of foldables.

The more interesting battle could be between form factors: flip or fold. Nabila Popal, research director with IDC's worldwide quarterly mobile phone tracker, said that although the flip seems to be more popular at the moment, it is too early in the game to declare a clear winner. As such, vendors will have to keep a close eye on the overall market to observe how trends steer the ship.

Image credit Onur Binay