There's about to be a new player aiming for the best foldable phone crown, though details about the upcoming release are pretty sparse at this point.
Honor, a Chinese phone maker that targets younger shoppers, took to Twitter with a post teasing the launch of the Honor Magic V (opens in new tab). The phone will be the first foldable that Honor's produced, and the company says it will be limited to China at this point.
Unfold all the potential. This is HONOR’s first foldable flagship phone, the #HONORMagicV. pic.twitter.com/kijORIGxg1December 22, 2021
That's a little bit disappointing in that fans of foldable phones have few options right now. Samsung dominates the market with the Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Galaxy Z Flip 3, both of which have reportedly sold better than expected since arriving this summer. Other would-be contenders have fallen by the wayside — LG exited the phone business this year, taking its dual-screen devices with it, and Google reportedly dropped plans to come out with a Pixel Fold. About the only option U.S. buyers have outside of Samsung is Microsoft's dual-screen Surface Duo 2, an expensive device that, in our opinion, doesn't fully take advantage of its larger screen real estate.
Before you write off the foldable phone space, though, some interesting things are happening in China. Honor's Magic V arrives shortly after the unveiling of the Oppo Find N. Oppo's foldable is also limited to China, but it's adorned with a 7.1-inch interior display that doesn't have as prominent a crease the Galaxy Z Fold 3. The Oppo Find N's Flexion hinge also helps it close completely flat in contrast to Samsung's phone, where there's a small gap. (We've got more details on how the phones differ in our Oppo Find N vs. Galaxy Z Fold 3 comparison.)
We don't know nearly as much about the Honor Magic V, in large part because Honor has been so stinting with details apart from the fact that foldable is launching soon in China. From the teaser image, we can guess that the Magic V opens up like a book to reveal a larger interior display, much like how the Galaxy Z Fold 3 is designed.
However, a report back in July claimed that the phone — then known as the Honor Magic Fold — would have an 8.03-inch interior display. That would be larger than the Galaxy Z Fold 3, which opens up to reveal a 7.6-inch screen. The Surface Duo 2 still would have a larger work area, with an 8.3-inch full-screen mode that's comprised of two separate panels. That July report also said Honor's foldable would feature a 6.45-inch outer screen that would let you use the phone without having to open it up.
The Honor Magic V's specs will certainly be important — particularly, the processor powering the device and what kind of cameras it features. But as we've seen with other foldables, there are other key factors that can determine a foldable phone's chances for success. As we can see from the generally positive reaction to the Oppo Find N, the design of a foldable phone can be a major selling point, particularly in how it handles the crease that can appear on the part of the display that folds in two.
Price is also a major issue. One of the things that helped the Galaxy Z Flip 3 find an audience was Samsung's decision to price the flip phone for less than $1,000 — the first time a foldable device cracked that barrier. It will be interesting to see what Honor ultimately charges for the Magic V, since the phone maker has a reputation for offering devices that aren't as pricey as the competition's.
Finally, phone makers have struggled to articulate a reason for why people should pay up for foldable phones. Right now, the most persuasive argument seems to be that foldables allow you to get more work done on the go, thanks to their expandable screens. But app makers need to tweak their software to take advantage of the larger displays — that's happened to some extent, but not to the degree that it's causing a stampede toward foldables from productivity-obsessed shoppers.
We'll keep an eye out for more details on the Honor Magic V. While the phone isn't launching outside of China, here's hoping it has an influence on other foldable phone makers looking to shake up this new category of handsets.