Dueling Reports Debate LG's Foldable Smartphone Plans (Updated)

Editors' Note: Updated at 12:41 a.m. ET to include Cnet's report on LG's smartphone plans.

To fold or not to fold — that appears to be the question facing LG and its next smartphone, according to dueling reports about the phone maker's plans for next month's Mobile World Congress event in Barcelona.

The successor to the LG G7, shown here, is expected at MWC next month. (Credit: Tom's Guide)

(Image credit: The successor to the LG G7, shown here, is expected at MWC next month. (Credit: Tom's Guide))

On the folding phone front, a Korean paper reports that the LG G8 ThinQ will debut at the mobile industry trade show in February, and that the new flagship phone will feature a folding display. The report, published in Dong-A Ilbo, says that LG's G8 will feature a smaller display that can fold out into a 7-inch screen. Samsung has shown off a similar capability with its Infinity Flex display that will be featured on the upcoming Galaxy F. But that display is a single folding panel; Dong-A Ilbo reports that LG's version will feature two screens joined together by a hinge.

But wait — a second report in Cnet cites a person familiar with situation at LG who says that's not what the company is planning at all. Instead, according to that report, Cnet will build a phone that will allow you to attach an optional second screen. And it will be just one of several phones LG could unveil at MWC in February, none of which will fold. The phone described by Cnet may not even be called the G8.

Who to believe? We'll have plenty of time to debate that point, as Mobile World Congress doesn't begin until e.b 25.

The phone described in the Dong-A Ilbo report sounds a lot like the same approach ZTE used for its foldable Axon M smartphone back in 2017, and it wasn't entirely successful then. While the hinge on the Axon M was certainly sturdy, it also proved a nuisance when trying to use the phone in full-screen mode. The report on LG's plans suggests a more seamless screen for the G8.

MORE: All the Incoming Foldable Phones for 2019

This isn't the first time we've heard about LG's plans for a foldable phone. Patents describing a hinged phone were spotted late last year, and LG executives told us at CES that a foldable phone was in the works. In fact, some industry watchers had even suggested a foldable phone would make a surprise appearance at last week's CES show, though that didn't pan out.

In addition to the folding screen, the report out of Korea on the LG G8 says the phone will use something called "touchless input," which will let you preform gesture controls from up to 11 inches away without touching the screen. A sensor on the front of the phone will be able to recognize the gestures you make, according to the report.

It wouldn't be out of character for LG to try something new with the phone it introduces at Mobile World Congress, whether that's a foldable phone or one that has the attachable screen Cnet describes. At the 2016 edition of the mobile trade show, the phone maker unveiled the modular LG G5, which was designed to let you swap in different accessories. The next year, the LG G6 introduced the wider display that's becoming increasingly popular among flagship phones.

Of course, it also wouldn't be out of character for someone to steal LG's thunder around Mobile World Congress. Not long after LG introduced the extra-wide screen on the LG G6, Samsung took the wraps off the Galaxy S8 and its similarly immersive Infinity Display. Guess who wound up getting all the attention?

LG had better hope history doesn't repeat itself. This year's Mobile World Congress kicks off on Feb. 25, but a few days before on Feb. 20, Samsung will hold its own press event in San Francisco. It's expected that Samsung will introduce the Galaxy S10 at that event, but there's also a possibility that the foldable Galaxy F could get some stage time, too — several days before the G8's rumored unveiling.

Perhaps price could be a differentiating factor. While Samsung's foldable phone is is expected to cost a lot — we've heard reports that it will be around $1,800 without any carrier subsidiaries — Dong-A Ilbo suggests the LG G8's price could be closer to $900.

Philip Michaels

Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.