Chinese smartphone giant Oppo launches foldable flip phone as it bets on high-end market

The Oppo Find N2 Flip is a foldable smartphone that has a screen on the outside too. Oppo is looking to boost its position in the premium smartphone market with the £849 ($1024) device.

Oppo launched a foldable flip phone for international markets, as the Chinese smartphone maker looks to boost its business outside of China.

The Find N2 Flip marks Oppo’s push to make a dent in the premium segment of the smartphone market and in the nascent foldable phone category.

The Find N2 Flip, which was launched on Wednesday, folds in the middle like a traditional flip phone and boasts two screens. The main continuous 6.8-inch display is visible when the device is open and can connect to next-generation 5G mobile networks. There is a second display on the outside of the phone when the device is folded, which Oppo touts as the “largest cover screen of its kind.”

The company said that the phone can withstand over 400,000 folds and unfolds at standard room temperature, which it equates to opening and closing the device around 100 times a day for more than ten years.

The foldable phone category, which was pioneered by Samsung, is still in the early stages. Shipments of foldables accounted for just 1.1% of total smartphone shipments in 2022, according to IDC, and are expected to increase to just 2.8% in 2026.

“I think there’s this kind of tricky thing with foldables: they’re all lovely, everyone is excited by them, but do we really know how big the market is?” Ben Wood, chief of research at CCS Insight, told CNBC via phone.

Oppo targets premium brand

Oppo is the world’s fourth-largest smartphone player by market share, and the Chinese firm has found success over the past few years by selling high-spec and innovative devices at a competitive price.

More recently, Oppo has been looking to boost its presence outside of China and capture a slice of the high-end smartphone market that Apple and Samsung dominate.

Oppo’s challenge will be around building its brand outside of China, where it remains behind the likes of Samsung, according to Wood. The foldable phone is part of Oppo’s effort to build itself into a premium brand.

“This is a huge bet for them. Oppo has clearly recognized that there is strong potential in the premium smartphone segment, and they have made no secret of the fact they believe that foldables is one aspect of taking the brand to the premium tier,” Wood said.

“The reason premium is holding up is partly because people are wanting to buy a phone that will last a long time. The mobile phone is such an indispensable part of peoples’ lives that they are prepared to pay more for a product, if they believe it will last a long time.”

Outside of China, there are still very few foldable phones available for purchase. In terms of flip foldables, Samsung has the Galaxy Z Flip4, while Motorola offers the Razr 5G.

Oppo has priced its device at £849 ($1024) in the U.K, cheaper than Samsung’s £899 Galaxy Z Flip4.

“On price, they’ve definitely gone competitive,” Wood said, adding that Oppo has to boost its brand recognition.

Oppo also said Wednesday that its Find N2 Flip is the official smartphone of the UEFA Champions League, the European soccer competition, as it looks to market its device and brand to a wide audience.

Given Oppo’s big investment in marketing and high-end devices, Wood called 2023 a “make-or-break year” for the smartphone maker.

“They are placing a huge bet on building their international business, and that is requiring a very significant investment. And you can’t keep doing that indefinitely, if you cant get a return on it,” Wood said.