Honor released its Magic V2 foldable on July 12, 2023, starting with the China market.


BARCELONA — Honor will launch a foldable flip phone this year, the company’s CEO told CNBC, marking the Chinese technology firm’s first foray into the vertical-folding style of smartphone that has been popularized by brands like Samsung and Motorola.

“Foldables” refer to smartphones with displays that bend. There are two styles right now on the market — smartphones that fold like a book and those that fold vertically like an old school flip phone but without a visible hinge.

The move to launch a flip foldable is in line with Honor’s push into the premium end of the market where it’s looking to challenge companies like Samsung and Apple.

“This year we are preparing for the flip phone launch — now that we are internally in the final stage,” George Zhao, CEO of Honor, told CNBC in an exclusive interview at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

“We are very positive about foldables for the future.”

Honor already has a number of foldable phones on the market. The latest one is the Honor Magic V2 that it launched last year. But all of Honor’s current foldables are the book style of the folding device.

The entry into flip foldables will expose Honor to a different price point. The flip style of phones, such as Samsung’s Galaxy Z Flip 5 are often priced cheaper than the horizontal-style folding devices.

Foldables are seen as high-end devices in the world of smartphones. Sales for premium smartphones, those over $600, likely grew in 2023 while the overall market declined, according to Counterpoint Research. This is one reason that Honor is targeting the high-end market.

Sales of foldable phones are set to rise 40% year-on-year to 22 million units in 2024, according to Counterpoint Research. But Neil Shah, partner at Counterpoint Research, said demand for the flip foldable may be slowing because “expectations of aggressive pricing of the flip form factor has been difficult.”

“I believe this will create some market gap for newer vendors to enter or expand in the flip segment and test out the market.”

Honor, a spin-off from Huawei in 2020 as a result of U.S. sanctions, has sought to thrive as an independent brand. Honor found early success in China and its focus is now on growing in international markets, where it doesn’t yet feature in the top 5 players globally.

Zhao said his hope in the next three-to-five years is that sales volumes overseas exceed China.

Honor’s AI push

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