With Google betting on a foldable future for Android, it seems all phone manufacturers are getting these type of devices ready. Even Apple is reportedly looking into this form factor that offers the convenience of extreme portability when folded and a larger screen whenever you need it.Credit: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty ImagesClearly, foldable phones and the return of the slider phone will be the hottest trends this year. Our foldable phone guide shows the cats that are already out of the bag, but here are all the companies working on transformer phones right now.
Huawei Foldable Phone
The Huawei foldable phone (pictured below) seems to be one of the more impressive foldable devices rumored to be in the works. It reportedly will have 5G and a full 5-inch screen on the front (with a notch for facial ID recognition), as well as an almost bezel-free 8-inch screen outside. Huawei’s CEO Ken Hu says it’s so powerful it will be able to “replace a PC”.
Initial reports suggested the phone could be unveiled at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona next month. The company has a press conference scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 24, so we're likely to find out more about Huawei's plans then, especially since a tweet announcing the MWC press event hints at a mobile phone.
Samsung Galaxy Fold
The technology behind the upcoming Samsung foldable was announced in November 2018. The Infinity Flex display Samsung will be using for the Galaxy Fold will expand to 7.3 inches and sport a resolution of 2152 x 1536 pixels. According to a Korean analyst report, the Galaxy Fold (as the phone will apparently be called) will cost $1,800 and sport a whopping gigantic mAh battery capacity and two 12-MP rear-facing cameras.
The batteries will be split into two, one on each blade, which is a no-brainer given its gigantic display and cover panel. A report on GalaxyClub said the two batteries would provide a total of 6,200 mAh.
Credit: Lets Go DigitalWhen closed, the display will measure 4.58 inches with a resolution of 1960 x 480 pixels.
Samsung hasn’t revealed many other details as of yet, but we do know the device will be able to run three apps on the screen at once, thanks to the new OneUI interface. It's expected that the phone will run on Qualcomm's new Snapdragon 855 mobile processor, at least for the version that ships in the U.S.
A Samsung Unpacked event happens this week in San Francisco. And even though the Galaxy S10 is expected to be the star of that particular show. Samsung has already hinted that the Galaxy Fold will be part of that event.
It's unclear if Samsung will announce a ship date or price for the Galaxy Fold at that event, but Italian blog Tutto Android says the foldable phone from Samsung should be shipping in late March or early April.
The world’s first foldable phone already debuted last November. It isn’t as polished as Huawei or Samsung’s but, hey, the little Chinese David beat the two Goliaths to be first to market. Called the FlexPai, it has a 7.8-inch AMOLED screen with a 1920 x 1440 resolution and measures 7.5 x 5.3 x 0.3 inches.
Credit: Tom's GuideThe Snapdragon 855-powered Flexpai has two cameras rated at 16 and 20 megapixels, and comes with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage in its $1,318 base model. You can already order it from Royole, though the company warns it may take up to eight weeks for your order to ship.
We had a chance to go hands-on with the FlexPai during CES, and it's a more polished experience than initial videos of the phone might have you believe. Folding the FlexPai is relatively fluid, and you can use the phone in full-screen, phone-sized and tent modes. The device also doesn't feel that heavy. Still, the FlexPai felt a little unfinished, like it had been rushed to market to beat the bigger players. We hope to eventually test out the cameras and see how this phone holds up to everyday use.
The brand now owned by Lenovo may resuscitate its legendary RAZR model in the form of a foldable phone, at least judging from US Patent and Trademark Office patents found by Dutch tech blog Mobielkopen and confirmed by a January report in the Wall Street Journal.
According to TechRadar, Lenovo CEO Yang Yuanqing said that foldable screens may be the key to reintroduce the RAZR, a really compact flip phone that expands into a full screen similar to the 6.5-inch phones we have today.
“With the new technology, especially folding screens, I think you will see more and more innovation in our smartphone design," he told TechRadar. "so hopefully what you just described [the RAZR] will be developed or realized very soon." Patents spotted on the World Intellectual Property Office database seem to back that approach up. A firm named Yanko Design followed weeks later with a mockup, seen below, based on sketches filed in those patents.
Credit: Yanko Design
Xiaomi's folding phone is only in the prototype stage. But it's pretty eye-catching — it's a double-folding phone where the top and bottom of the tablet-sized screen fold down, leaving you with a compact (if chunky) smartphone.
Xiaomi president Lin Bin posted a video of the prototype on Chinese social network Weibo. It could be called the Xiaomi Dual Flex or Xiaomi MIX Flex, though we're a long way from seeing this phone on the market. Bin says the version we're seeing is not the final product.
Credit: MobielkopenThe 2017 Axon M was more flop than foldable, thanks to a dual-screen design that reminds me of the LG patent. But that’s not the end of the line for ZTE. In an interview, ZTE Marketing VP Jeff Yee said that they will get “something that’s truly bendable.”
ZTE has filed patents not just for a phone that folds in in itself, but also a phone with a wrap-around display. While drawings reveal the general design of each, their size, price, and development progress is not yet known.
Uncovered by Mobielkopen, the Oppo foldable is yet another Android transformer that could be on the way, and the first details could be revealed fairly soon.
Credit: Oppo/SIPO/MobielkopenIt has showed up in a filing with the Chinese patent office. The document includes four variants of the same design, with the display on the outside, like the FlexPai. There’s not any other details about it, though.
Oppo says that it will have to more to share about its possible foldable phone plans in February, according to AndroidWorld.nl.
"We know that brands such as Samsung and Sony are working on a foldable phone," said Chuck Wang, Oppo product manager. "You can also expect more news from Oppo, perhaps at MWC," referring to the February mobile trade show.
Another company that may produce a foldable phone — though not at MWC, as had been rumored — could be LG. That company's flexible phone may be the one that showed up in a recent patent uncovered by Letsgodigital. That phone, however, has two displays rather than a seamless foldable screen.
Credit: Lets Go DigitalIt’s hard to understand why LG would choose such a design when they are the undisputed leaders in flexible OLED technology, however, so I wouldn’t count on this being their bet against Samsung and Huawei, especially after IP Park, chief technology officer and president of LG Electronics, told us at CES that his company was working on both rollable and foldable phones.
Credit: Lets Go DigitalIn a filing with the European Union Intellectual Property Office, LG has applied to register three brand names: Flex, Foldi, and Duplex. The latter may refer to the dual-screen phone. Flex is already in use in of LG’s curved phone, the G Flex 2. It seems logical to think that Foldi may refer to a foldable screen phone.
There’s also a new patent — filed on November 20, 2018 — that shows this strange foldable by LG:Credit: Lets Go Digital
Initially, it looked like LG might try to join this year's parade of foldable devices, by showcasing a flexible phone at MWC. However, LG president Kwon Bong-seok, who also heads the company's mobile communications division, says told the Korea Times that it's premature to come out with a folding device. "We have reviewed releasing the foldable smartphone when launching 5G smartphone but decided not to produce it," the LG executive said. Instead, the company is focusing on its 5G device for now.
And finally, there’s Apple. The Cupertino company is not talking about its foldable plans at all, but there’s no doubt they are working on exploring different designs, as this patent on hinge designs show.
Credit: Patently AppleMost likely, Tim Cook and Jony Ive will wait until Google, Samsung, Huawei, and company iron out all the many technological kinks. But perhaps, if the format takes off as these companies and the Westworld scriptwriters think it will, Apple may be left behind in the Next Big Thing.