Like5G phones, foldable phones are undeniably on the rise. Back in February, the trend stole the showatMWC 2019 as many phone makers announced their plans for foldable phones. With one flexible device already available to buy and a couple of others expected this year, phones with foldable displays aren’t far-off concepts any longer. Everyone from big-nameSamsungand lesser-known brands includingHuawei, to unknown startups like Royole, are ready to inject amuch-needed joltinto the industry.
In addition,Google’scommitted to providingAndroid supportfor foldable designs, so we can expect even more phone companies to get involved with the trend. (Given some of its own patent filings that recently came to light, it may even release a foldable phone of its own.)
Originally published Jan. 26, 2019
Update, April 13: Added information about Galaxy Fold preorder.
Samsung Galaxy Fold: Preorder starts April 15, available April 26
As the biggest tech company to throw its hat into the ring, many were eager to learn about the Galaxy Foldat Samsung Unpacked and it didn’t disappoint. When closed, the Fold has a secondary 4.6-inch display that serves as its “cover,” with all the usual features you’d expect on a phone. When you’re ready for something bigger, the Fold opens up like a book to a 7.3-inch tablet.
To get the phone, you first need to place a reservation for the Galaxy Fold when youregister onlineto receive more information from Samsung. (Unfortunately, the UK site does not yet have a Fold page.In Australia, click “pre-register now” on this page.) You then need to preorder the device, which starts Monday, April 15. The Fold will be available in the US on April 26 and costs a pretty penny at $1,980 (about £1,500 or AU$2,800).
To achieve the phone’s design with no visible line across the screen, the Fold has what the company calls an Infinity Flex Display. Essentially made out of a fancy plastic material, the screen can flex and fold hundreds of times without breaking. With the help of Google’s OS, apps will switch smoothly between display sizes as well.
Watch Samsung’s Galaxy Fold stress test
The Fold also has six cameras. On the back, there’s the same triple-camera setup as the Galaxy S10 and on the front a single 10-megapixel camera. In tablet form, there are two additional cameras inside: a selfie camera and an 8-megapixel depth camera.
But that’s not the end of it. Samsung is said to be developingtwo more foldable phones, according toBloomberg. Citing people familiar with the company’s plans, Bloomberg reported that one phone will fold vertically, while the other will fold inward instead of outwardly like the Fold.
Huawei Mate X: Available ‘mid-2019’
Jumping on the trends of foldable phones and5G, Huawei’s new phone has both. The Mate X has a 6.6-inch display when folded closed and an 8-inch OLED screen when you flip it open. And it features 5G connectivity that’s said to be four times faster than 4G, a 4,500-mAh battery and three rear cameras.
Similar to the Fold, it’ll also be very pricey at 2,299 euros, or about $2,600, £2,000 or AU$3,660. However, at its MWC keynote event when Huawei first announced the phone, the companyhinted that cheaper modelsmay be coming down the pipeline.
It’s unlikely that the Mate X will be available in the US when it launches mid-2019 though. Calling it a security threat to the Department of Defense, the US government banned the sale of Huawei phones on US military bases. Retail giant Best Buy stopped selling them in March 2018 and Huawei’s CFO was arrested in Canada at the request of the US in an act her father said was politically motivated. Huawei devices are still available in more than 170 countries around the world, however, according to a Huawei spokesperson.
Huawei Mate X is a foldable phone with 5G
Royole FlexPai: Available now
Developed by a startup headquartered in Fremont, California, the Royole Flexpai was the first flexible phone to debut, in October 2018. The phone has a plastic, 7.8-inch AMOLED screen and it’s already on sale. You’ll pay $1,318 (£1,209) for the 6GB of RAM and 128GB variant. And it’s $1,469 (£1,349) for the 8GB of RAM and 256GB version. (Australian prices weren’t released, but they convert to about AU$2,180 and AU$2,440, respectively.)
The FlexPai runs an OS called Water that’s layered on top of Google Android 9.0. Whichever way you choose to hold or bend the device, the screen adjusts to its many different orientations and viewing options. Thoughrough around the edgeswhen we first got our hands on it, the FlexPai gave us one of the first solid glimpses of what the future offoldable phones will hold.
Ever since its patent application file went public in December 2017, rumors began circulating that Motorola, which Lenovo acquired in 2014, would resurrect the popular Motorola Razr phone with a folding-screen. Later, a company exec atMotorola confirmedsomething was coming down the pipeline, likely in the summer.
The Razr reboot will supposedly cost $1,500 onVerizon. Refreshing the phone would be a smart move on Motorola. Since its original launch in 2004, the beloved phone has gained an iconic status for its sleek design, thin profile and various color options at the time.
Can Motorola’s Razr top Galaxy Fold by going smaller?
TCL: Confirmed, coming in 2020
Mostly known for its affordabletelevisions, Chinese tech company TCL is working on a number of foldable devices, which include twotablets, two phones and a cuff-like phone you wear around your wrist. Despite not being a household name in the US, you may know TCL better through other brands it owns, namely BlackBerry, Alcatel and Palm.
The upcoming devices all have flexble AMOLED displays that can bend because of what TCL calls aDragonHinge. Patented by the company, the hinge enables the screens to fold both inward and outward. TCL estimates that its first foldable phone will be available in 2020 and that it could cost less than $1,000 — making it significantly cheaper than the Galaxy Fold.
Xiaomi Dual Flex or Mix Flex: Confirmed
In January, Chinese phone maker Xiaomi introduced itsnew foldable phoneon the social media platform Weibo. Unlike previous phones we’ve seen, which have only one bend down the middle, Xiaomi’s phone folds down into thirds, with both sides folding down.
Xiaomi co-founder and president Bin Lin said this form factor is “practical and beautiful” and that it “perfectly merges the experience of a tablet and a phone.” No specs or pricing information were given, but Xiaomi is currently taking votes on two possible names: Dual Flex or Mix Flex.
Nubia Alpha: Confirmed
Nubia, an associate company of Chinese phone-makerZTE, is taking the concept of a foldable phone one step further with itsNubia Alpha. Introduced at MWC, the Alpha is unique in that it’s a phone that wraps around a user’s wrist, similar to a smartwatch. It features a flexible 4.01-inch display, gesture controls and a water-resistant design.
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a phone that looks like the Alpha. In 2016,Lenovohad a concept device called CPlus, which had a 4.26-inch display that you bent over your wrist. But the Alpha isn’t a concept — though Nubia didn’t release any pricing or availability dates, it will make the Alpha commercially available to users.
Apple: Rumored, with patent application
In February, Apple once again updated its patent application for a clamshell phone with a foldable display and body. The filings have been ongoing since Apple’s first one eight years ago, in 2011. Since then, rumors of a flexible iPhone reignite with every new updated document, which have been filed in 2014, 2016 and2017.
According to the filings, the phone “may have a flexible portion that allows the device to be folded.” But keeping with its usual style, Apple has remained mum on details. So far, nothing has come to fruition with any of these patents in the public eye, and there hasn’t been any info on what this device might be (and if it will even be a phone at all) or a timeline to expect such products.
Will Apple jump on the foldable phone trend?
Google: Rumored, with patent application
We already know that Google plans to support foldable phones with its Android OS platform. But in December 2018, the tech giantfiled a patent application for a foldable device. While this doesn’t officially confirm that the company is launching a foldable phone, it’s at least considering the option. The patent is for a “foldable display of a computing device and includes a back stiffening layer, a transparent front-plate layer, a transparent cover window layer, and an OLED display layer disposed between the back stiffening layer and the transparent frontplate layer.”
Lenovo: Rumored, with patent application
As mentioned before, Lenovo introduced the concept CPlus phone in 2016, which could bend and wrap around your wrist like the Nubia Alpha. While it was just a concept phone back then, Lenovo has been making inroads to release a real foldable phone to the masses. Last July itfiled a patent applicationfor a “portable information device” with a “foldable configuration.”
Back in 2014, LG launched theG Flex, a phone with a curved screen. More recently atCES 2019, it showed off arollable TVthat will be on sale later this year. We know that LG has the technology in the works for a flexible phone and the companyis said to be working on one.
For now, we have no idea what the phone will look like, how much it will cost or when it will arrive. There were rumors that LG wouldintroduce one at CES, but that turned out to be a false alarm. And later at MWC, LG had an accessory that addeda second screento itsLG V50phone, but unfortunately none of the devices fold.