There is no getting away from it - 2019 is the year of the foldable smartphone. The long-rumored next generation of devices comes at a time when the market is stagnating. Here are all the foldable phones of the future we know about so far.
Sales of smartphones are falling, people are hanging onto devices for longer, and the market is in need of a reboot. The answer? Foldable displays. We expect all of the major manufacturers to be working on bendy screen tech at some level, but some are racing to market quicker than others.
Jump to manufacturer:
The Korean manufacturer is easily the biggest name in foldable phones. Samsung has been talking about and teasing a device with a foldable display for the best part a decade. It almost feels like we know a lot about Samsung’s foldable smartphone without really knowing anything at all.
We don’t even know the name. The Galaxy X, Galaxy F, Galaxy Fold…. Any other takers? Samsung has already ‘shown’ the device on stage at the SDC 2018, albeit the product was heavily disguised. However, with the S10 launch event just around the corner, the wait could finally be over for fans anticipating what the final ready-for-market device will look like. Let'sGoDigital has been making 3D renders based on what we know so far.
The foldable has already shown up in an official Samsung ad (which was quickly removed) and is expected to cost somewhere in the region of $1,800. What we do know for sure is that when opened, the display has a diagonal of 7.3 inches and 1536 x 2152 pixels. When closed, you’re looking at 4.58 inches of screen and a pixel density of 420 dpi (840 x 1960).
Whatever it is called, and whatever it looks like, we are expecting the Samsung foldable to come in blue, green, silver and black in both 4G and 5G variants. We’re also not expecting it to launch worldwide initially. South Korean first, almost certainly, and then a staggered launch schedule is likely.
Will we see it during the Galaxy S10 presentation event in San Francisco on February 20? Let’s hope so. Samsung has also patented a folding gaming smartphone, but let’s take things one at a time, shall we?
From the largest smartphone manufacturer in the world to the second largest, Huawei is, of course, also working on a foldable smartphone of its own. Richard Yu, CEO of the company, is no stranger to going public with information on his own schedule and Mr. Yu hasn’t been shy about Huawei’s foldable phone either.
During the unveiling of Huawei’s new 5G Balong 5000 modem, Yu said that the first device to use it will be shown at MWC in Barcelona this month. He also said that it would foldable.
The processor is going to be HiSilicon’s Kirin 980, but we know little else. Renders that have been drawn up from patents that show two holes in the screen, one dedicated to the camera and the other to the LED flash, plus a USB Type-C port and a slightly thinner overall design compared to Samsung’s device.
Another Chinese giant that is not going to let the foldable smartphone ship sail without jumping on board is Xiaomi. Taking a slightly more direct approach compared to the leak-that’s-not-a-leak press generating technique, and instead posting a video on Twitter showing the company's co-founder, Bin Lin, using its foldable phone.
Check out this special video from #Xiaomi President and Co-founder Bin Lin, showing off a very special phone prototype... 😎— Donovan Sung (@donovansung) January 23, 2019
What does everyone think we should name this phone? 🤔#InnovationForEveryone pic.twitter.com/1lFj3nM7tD
The device shown in the video, which was posted by Xiaomi spokesman, Donovan Sung, is just a prototype, but the fact that it is working seemingly smoothly suggests that Xiaomi is keeping pace with Samsung and Huawei in getting its foldable smartphone tech to market.
The device differs from its competition in China and Korea, however, in that it features two hinges instead of one. In the video, Bin Lin rotates the phone 90-degrees before folding over both of the sides to create a more conventional size smartphone display. The outward folding display is something we’ve also seen on the only “released” foldable smartphone today too...
Royole likes to claim that it released the world’s first commercial foldable phone, and we’re willing to let them have that one on this occasion. Royole is already taking money for FlexPais, which can be bought for a handsome price from the company’s own website.
Our very own Pierre Vitré was able to get his hands on the device at CES 2019 in Las Vegas. He found the device to have good craftsmanship for a pre-production device, despite a few small air bubbles in the display, but raised questions about the utility of such a device.
The FlexPai uses a unique operating system called Water OS to handle the issue of keeping everything running smoothly when you have flexibility in your display size. When opened, the device has a 7.8-inch tablet-sized, full-color flexible display with 4:3 aspect ratio and 1920 x 1440 resolution.
People my age will remember the Motorola RAZR fondly. I joked in our editorial office when we were brainstorming for Eric’s cult smartphone article, that I’d love an original RAZR with a foldable display inside. Well, some dreams do come true.
This one is still at the very early stages, but excitement for it is sky high. When Motorola patented a design that is close to what I dreamed of on December 17, 2018, it didn't take long for renders to start surfacing.
We don’t really have much more to go on, but the Wall Street Journal has reported that the device is more than just a pipe dream, and that prices will start at a cool $1,500. The phone is rumored to be a partnership between Lenovo Group and Verizon, and will be exclusive to customers in the US - much to the woe of everyone here in Berlin.
Not to be left by fellow compatriots Samsung, LG is also expected to release a foldable smartphone this year. In terms of leaks, renders and video footage, we’re not quite as far down the path from rumor to reality with LG as we are with some of the other manufacturers. But here’s what we know so far.
LG has patented two convertible smartphone designs. The first is fairly conventional, with a hinge in the middle and a folding display similar to what Samsung is doing. The second is slightly more interesting. The fold is not quite in the middle, leaving a sort of screen overlap that could be used for an always-on display perhaps.
That’s what we know so far. We will, without doubt, see more foldable smartphones emerge as 2019 rolls on. What is Sony working on in Japan? How about OPPO in China? Also, do we really expect Apple to stay out of this race? A foldable smartphone/tablet device running iOS must be in the work, but when will Apple show its hand?
We’ll be answering all of these questions as we update this page throughout the year. Stay tuned for all of your foldable smartphone news, rumors, leaks and releases right here.