Samsung Electronics unveiled its latest foldable smartphones on Wednesday, keeping prices around the same level three years in a row as it seeks to challenge Apple's dominance in the premium market.

The world's largest smartphone maker pioneered the segment in 2019, betting that it would appeal to consumers looking for a bigger screen to consume content, while its foldable displays keep the overall phone size compact.

Foldable phones remain a niche product category, carving out 5% of the global premium smartphone market, although the sector has grown rapidly from just 0.3% in 2019, according to research firm Counterpoint.

Samsung, a leader in the segment with 63% market share in the first quarter, is looking to accelerate the growth trajectory with an aggressive pricing plan and faster rollout, industry analysts said.

The company on Wednesday priced its new clamshell Galaxy Z Flip5 at $999.99, and the wide Galaxy Z Fold5 to start at $1,799.99 in the United States, the same as the launch prices of the last two years' models.

It made the folded Flip5 thinner than last year's model by improving the hinge - and enlarged the cover screen to 3.4 inches (8.64 cm), adding more capacity for interactions and an improved ability to take a selfie with the top-line main camera.

Samsung's 7.6-inch screen Fold5, lighter and thinner than last year's model, offers a bigger vapour chamber for better heat management when gaming or multitasking and a 41% thinner stylus.

Both models use Qualcomm's Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipsets.

The unveiling of the latest models comes weeks earlier than last year - seen by analysts as a bid to keep the limelight for longer before the next iPhone release.

"Competition with Apple's iPhone 15 series is inevitable. Consumers of foldable products are expanding from early adopters to general users, in particular... in China and Western Europe," said Jene Park, senior analyst at Counterpoint.

Because of advanced technology used for foldable displays and hinges, foldable phones are "significantly more expensive than general smartphones" to make, which can make price the biggest obstacle for a consumer, Park said.

In 2023, global foldable smartphone shipments are projected to reach 19 million units, up about 45% from 13.1 million in 2022, according to Counterpoint.

Apple had a 75% share of the premium smartphone market priced $600 or above in 2022, versus Samsung's 16%.

Samsung's new foldable phones will be available from Aug. 11 in select markets. (Reporting by Joyce Lee; Editing by Miyoung Kim and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)