- Foldable phones once seemed like a futuristic idea, but they have become a reality in 2019.
- Major smartphone makers have released or are working on foldable phones, including Samsung,LG,Huawei, and even Lenovo.
- These are all the companies that have explored or taken steps toward creating their own foldable devices.
The hype around foldable phones has reached a fever pitch, and smartphone makers are competing to gain the upper hand as they explore consumer interest in new designs.
Just four days after Samsung unveiled their Galaxy Fold, Chinese tech company Huawei showed off its foldable Mate X. Not to mention that Mobile World Congress 2019 is being held this week in Barcelona, a conference where tech companies have teased designs and prototypes for foldable devices that could soon go to market.
Despite all the fanfare, there are few foldable phones that have come to fruition, and even fewer that are actually available to purchase.
Here are the all the companies that are developing foldable phones, and how much progress each of them have made:
Samsung officially revealed its foldable smartphone, called the Galaxy Fold, at its Unpacked event in February. The device acts like a smartphone when folded up, with a 4.6-inch screen that leaves huge swatches of space unused above and below the display. When unfolded, the phone acts more like a tablet with an expanded 7.3-inch display, and that extra screen real estate gives it the ability to show up to three apps at once. The phone also has a combined six cameras.
The Galaxy Fold will cost a whopping $US1,980 when it launches on April 26, but it will only be available in select stores and in limited supply.
- Read more about the Samsung Galaxy Fold:
- IT’S HERE: Check out Samsung’s $US1,980 foldable smartphone, the Galaxy Fold
- Samsung just introduced a wildly ambitious, $US2,000 foldable phone – here’s how it works
- The 7 coolest things about Samsung’s crazy-ambitious $US2,000 folding smartphone
- Goldman Sachs is right: Samsung’s folding phone may be a genuine threat to Apple’s iPhone
Huawei, a Chinese tech company, unveiled its own foldable phone at Mobile World Congress 2019 in Barcelona, just four days after Samsung showed off the Galaxy Fold. Huawei’s device, called the Mate X, is a smartphone-tablet fusion like Samsung’s Galaxy Fold. However, the Mate X bends outwards to reveal a larger screen, instead of the Fold’s book-like opening.
The Mate X has a bigger display than that on the Galaxy Fold – it comes in at 6.6 inches when folded, and 8 inches when unfolded. It will also come equipped with the ability to connect to super-fast 5G networks.
The Mate X is priced at €2,299 – approximately $US2,600 – and will launch in the middle of 2019. However, the launch will likely not include the US, since Huawei phones are hard to come by in the US due to concerns over privacy and national security.
- Read more about the Huawei Mate X:
- Check out Huawei’s 5G foldable phone, the Mate X
- Here’s a close-up look at Huawei’s $US2,600 folding phone, the Mate X
- Samsung and Huawei are both launching foldable smartphones this year – here’s how they compare
Royole, a little-known Chinese tech firm, actually beat Samsung and Huawei to launching a foldable phone when it debuted the developer edition of its FlexPai phone back in November. The 7.8-inch screen isn’t encased in glass like nearly all smartphones, and the company says it’s scratch-resistant and shatter-proof. The FlexPai can function as both a smartphone and a tablet, but it can also be used when it’s bent halfway (in an “A” shape) for split-screen capabilities.
However, reviewers who have tested out the FlexPai say it’s still a “first-generation” product. The hinge that allows the FlexPai to bend prevents the device from laying flat when folded, and apparently makes a “crunching sound” when folding.
The FlexPai developer model costs $US1,318 for 128 gigabytes of storage, and $US1,469 for 256 gigabytes of storage. Royole is selling the devices online and in-store in China. Like Huawei, Royole likely won’t be coming to the US anytime soon because of US security concerns.
- Read more about the Royole FlexPai:
- I got to try the world’s first foldable smartphone – but it feels more like a gimmick than a truly useful device
- This little-known Chinese company beat Samsung in launching a foldable phone – and it actually works
- This Stanford grad’s startup can make screens that are thinner than a sheet of copy paper – and he’s gearing up to take on Samsung and LG in the display market
Xiaomi released a video in January showing off its own foldable phone. This phone is unique from others that have been released because it can fold twice – meaning the device, in its smartphone form, is much more compact.
It’s important to note that this phone is simply a prototype, and not yet on the market.
TCL, a Chinese company behind BlackBerry and Alcatel phones, showed off several foldable prototypes at Mobile World Congress. One concept device uses TCL’s “Dragon Hinge” technology to be able to fold between phone and tablet. Another is designed to turn into a watch, while yet another prototype folds up like the Royole phone (like a “billfold of money”, CNET says), but leaves a small strip of screen exposed at the top that can display notifications and such.
TCL said it doesn’t plan to release a foldable phone until 2020, and that it hopes its phone can cost “30 per cent less” than Samsung’s $US1,980 Galaxy Fold.
LG reportedly said this month that it was “too early” for the company to produce a foldable phone as other smartphone makers are scrambling to market. However, LG did release its first 5G phone, the LG V50 ThinQ 5G, with an optional case that adds a second screen to the phone.
The Dual Screen accessory has a screen that’s almost as big as the phone display (6.4-inch diagonal vs. 6.2 inch diagonal). The case apparently has flexible hinges that allow it to open 180 degrees, and the two screens can run different apps simultaneously.
The phone is not yet available to order, and LG has not said when it would be released or how much it would cost.
ZTE has been making a dual-screen smartphone since 2017, when its weight and size were seen as major drawbacks in a year when phones were getting increasingly aesthetically pleasing. The ZTE Axon M may have been ahead of its time, as foldable phones and LG’s dual-screen phone weren’t unveiled until this year, where they have been given much fanfare and attention.
The ZTE Axon M has two 5.2-inch screens attached with a hinge, and two displays can be used for multitasking, or to show one tablet-sized display. However, the phone was sluggish when Business Insider reviewed it in 2017.
Apple has not publicly said whether it’s working on a foldable iPhone, but there’s evidence the tech giant is at least thinking about the technology. Apple recently published a patent showing designs and technical details for a foldable display that could appear on not just on phones, but also tablets, laptops, smartwatches, and even headphones.
Apple also filed a similar patent for a foldable phone back in 2016. These filings with the U.S. Patent Office are just an application and has yet to be granted, but it could indicate that Apple is considering making its own foldable phone. Or as is always the case with patents, it could just remain an area previously explored that never shows up in a consumer product.
- Read more about Apple’s foldable phone rumours:
- An Apple patent filing reveals what a foldable iPhone might look like
- Here are the 6 most important things we know about Apple’s rumoured foldable iPhone
- EXCLUSIVE CONSUMER SURVEY DATA: Samsung’s foldable phone is poised to steal Apple customers
Two different patents from Lenovo for foldable devices were discovered in 2019. The first patent was filed in July 2018, and doesn’t reveal much except Lenovo’s explorations around a foldable display.
The second, however, reveals that Lenovo may reportedly be bringing back the Razr flip phone (Lenovo is Motorola’s parent company). Patents from last December show the 2019 Razr could have a similar look to the original Razr flip phone, but the device could have a large screen inside that replaces the number dialling pad.
There’s more reason to think Lenovo is actually readying a consumer foldable phone. The Wall Street Journal reported that 200,000 units of the new Razr will be made, and will be sold as a partnership between Lenovo and Verizon. The phone will reportedly cost about $US1,500, and could arrive in early 2019.
- Read more about Lenovo’s foldable phone rumours:
- Everyone’s favourite flip phone from the early 2000s is getting a 2019 makeover – with a foldable display
- This is likely our best look yet at Motorola’s revamped Razr flip phone with a foldable display
The battery company Energizer is also joining the foldable phone race with a model showing a foldable phone design of its own: the Power Max 8100S. A non-functioning model of the phone was revealed at MWC 2019 alongside a massively thick smartphone with an 18,000 mAh battery that could last through a 3-day long phone call.
While the smartphone with the huge battery was available for on-hands use at MWC, the non-functioning model of Energizer’s foldable was reportedly only viewable behind a glass case. The Power Max 9100S has a thick accordion-like hinge that allows it to fold, and the company says it will have 5G capabilities if it comes to market.
The phone will reportedly only cost 850 euros (an estimated $US966), which would make it far cheaper than the other foldable phones on market. The Energizer phone shown off in Barcelona is made in collaboration with French telecoms company Avenir. No release date has been set.
Chinese tech company Oppo revealed a prototype design for its foldable phone in a video on the social media site Weibo. The look is similar to that of Huawei’s foldable phone: its display in phone-mode is drastically larger than that on Samsung’s Galaxy Fold.
The phone is just a prototype, and Oppo reportedly said in its Weibo post that it’s not planning to sell the device “unless it sees a lot of demand.”
The Chinese tech company Nubia is using a flexible OLED display not for a foldable phone, but for a wearable device. The Nubia Alpha combines “the best features of smartwatches and smartphones,” the company says.
The screen on the Alpha wearable is only 4 inches wide, but it’s much longer than those on any other smartwatch. The wearable has the capabilities of a full-fledged smartphone: It can make phone calls and send texts, connect to Bluetooth and WiFi, and even take pictures.
The Nubia Alpha will be available in two versions – Bluetooth and eSim (4G) models. The Bluetooth wearable will cost 449 euros (about $US510), and is expected to be made available in April to a global market. The 4G model will roll out starting in China in April, and will be sold in Europe and North America later in 2019. The black eSim Alpha costs 549 euros (about $US624), while the 18-karat gold-plated version goes for 649 euros (about $US738).
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.