A history of foldable smartphones in photos, from the groundbreaking Kyocera Echo to the new $1,400 Motorola Razr

Business Insider screenshotFolding phone.
  • Foldable phones have been around as a concept for more than a decade, but some are finally on the market.
  • They tend to be expensive and sometimes clunky, according to reviewers.
  • Microsoft recently launched the two-screen Surface Duo to mixed reviews, and Motorola just announced a revamped Razr.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Foldable phones might be the future of smartphones.

Tech giants like Huawei, Motorola, and Samsung have all released foldable phones, and Microsoft just joined them with the launch of the Surface Duo.The appeal for making bigger phones is obvious as they tend to sell better, and they have all the highest end features like fast processors and impressive cameras, but there’s a limit to what people can fit in their pockets.

Folding phones have emerged as one way to get around this perpetual problem in the world of technology. Meanwhile, Motorola is taking another shot at foldable phones, with a new version of the Razr after last year’s model failed to make it big.

Even before technology made folding phones feasible, tech companies brought future concepts to show off at conventions like CES. Then, some manufacturers moved forward with dual-screen design, which doesn’t rely on flexible OLED and can therefore be sturdier. Others made the screens themselves foldable.

Now, even Apple is rumoured to be thinking about a future folding iPhone, although there are no official announcements. There’s definitely demand, however. A 2019 UBS survey found that Apple buyers would be willing to pay an extra $US600 for a folding iPhone, and fancy features like a folding screen could be a way for phone makers to convince customers to pay more and keep margins high.

Here’s how foldable phones have developed.


In 2006, Polymer Vision unveiled a rollable E-reader called the Readius, though it was just a concept. The screen folded over itself several times to become more compact.

JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP via Getty ImagesReadius foldable E-reader concept.

Source: CNET


In 2008, Nokia’s animation of a thin, foldable glass smartphone got attention from journalists and tech fans for what seemed impossible at the time.

NokiaNokia Morph concept.

Source: CNET


In 2011, the Kyocera Echo stood out as an early foldable phone that was actually made it to market, though it had dual screens instead of a single foldable screen.

Steve Kovach/Business InsiderKyocera Echo.

In a review at the time, Business Insider’s Steve Kovach noted that it looked similar to a Nintendo DS.

Steve Kovach/Business InsiderKyocera Echo.

Source: Business Insider


In 2017, ZTE’s Axon M was built around the same concept, with dual screens connected by a hinge.

Photo by Joan Cros/NurPhoto via Getty Images)Axon M.

In a review at the time, Business Insider’s Antonio Villas-Boas noted that while the dual screens could be useful, the hinge got in the way of the experience.

Antonio Villas-Boas/Business InsiderAxon M.

Source: Business Insider


In 2018, Chinese tech company Royole brought the first foldable phone with a flexible OLED display, the FlexPai.

MKBHD/YouTubeRoyole FlexPai.

The 7.8-inch screen folded in half but didn’t actually fold flat. Early reviews called the phone “bulky” and difficult to hold.

RoyoleRoyole’s FlexPai foldable smartphone

Source: Business Insider


The Samsung Galaxy Fold went on sale in April 2019 for a hefty $US2000. In a review at the time, Business Insider’s Lisa Eadicicco noted the convenience of a phone that could fit in your pocket, yet unfold to nearly the size of an iPad mini.

Hollis Johnson/Business InsiderSamsung Galaxy Fold.

Source: Business Insider


Some reviewers reported broken screens and felt that the product wasn’t quite ready for market yet.

Hollis Johnson/Business InsiderSamsung Galaxy Fold.

Source: Business Insider


Only four days after Samsung’s release, Huawei unveiled the Mate X foldable phone.

Isobel Hamilton/Business InsiderThe Huawei Mate XS.

The rollout of the $US2,400 Mate X was delayed when a US trade blacklist blocked Huawei from using Google Android services.

Isobel Hamilton/Business InsiderHuawei Mate XS.

Source: Reuters


In February 2020, Motorola announced the Razr foldable phone, based on the classic Razr flip phone design.

Motorola/YouTubeMotorola’s revisited Razr phone.

A Business Insider review at the time noted that instead of unfolding out into extra, sometimes unnecessary screen space, the Razr can fold down to more easily fit in pockets.

MotorolaMotorola’s revisited Razr phone.

Source: Business Insider


Days later, Samsung announced the Galaxy Z Flip.

Lisa Eadicicco/Business InsiderGalaxy Z Flip.

Unlike other foldable phones on the mark, the Galaxy Z Flip has a glass screen, which reviewers approved of.

Lisa Eadicicco/Business InsiderGalaxy Z Flip.

Source: Business Insider


Apple seems to be the only cell phone company not working on a foldable phone design, although patents give a hint at what a folding iPhone might one day look like.

United States Patent and Trademark OfficeApple patent.

Source: Business Insider


Apple most recent folding patent is from July, for a screen that is still partially visible when folded.

Apple via USPTO.govApple patent.

This month, Microsoft is launching the $US1,400 Surface Duo, a phone with two screens that opens like a book.

Lisa Eadicicco/Business InsiderMicrosoft Surface Duo.

Source: Business Insider


The two 5.6 inch screens are connected by a 360-degree hinge that can fold into different modes, or be used as one giant screen.

Lisa Eadicicco/Business InsiderMicrosoft Surface Duo.

Source: Business Insider


Business Insider’s Lisa Eadicicco found that the device is too small to replace a tablet, but large and unwieldy when operating with one hand.

Lisa Eadicicco/Business InsiderMicrosoft Surface Duo.

Source: Business Insider


But, she said that the way some apps are designed to work well across the two screens made her optimistic about Microsoft’s ambitions and folding phones in general.

Lisa Eadicicco/Business InsiderMicrosoft Surface Duo.

Motorola announced an updated version of the Razr available October 2 starting at $US1,400 with 5G support, a new camera, and updated components for better performance.

MotorolaMotorola Razr 5G.

Source: Motorola


In a statement to TechCrunch, Motorola confirmed that it is doubling down on foldable phones, despite mixed reviews in the past. “We’re confident in our foldable system, which is why we retained much of the same technology from the first iteration of Razr.”

MotorolaRazr 5G.

Source: TechCrunch

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