Huawei needs even longer to bring its foldable smartphone, the Mate X, to market. However, analysts still see the market for folding smartphones as growing - even though it does not exist at the moment.
The Mate X continues to be delayed. This is what TechRadar reports from a press event that Huawei held in Shenzhen. Although a revised version of the original Mate X is due to be released in 2019, this should not be before November. So it looks like the tide's turning again.
Originally, Samsung wanted to launch its Galaxy Fold in April. Huawei was to follow in the middle of the year. But after the Samsung test devices failed one after the other, the sales launch was delayed further and further. For a long time, Samsung did not give any exact information about when the Galaxy Fold would launch. And even though Huawei had also postponed the release of the Mate X at that time, it still looked like Huawei would win the race for the first foldable smartphone - we'll ignore the Royole Flexpai for now.
Meanwhile, Samsung has announced that the Galaxy Fold will actually be in stores in September. The company is still waiting to announce the exact date. If Huawei needs longer again, then Samsung will win the race after all.
Does it even matter anymore?
In the meantime, the question is no longer who wins the race, but whether it is still important who wins it. Is it even a race anymore? If it is, they've both already lost.
When Samsung introduced the Galaxy Fold, many were impressed. But there was also skepticism among many of my colleagues and myself. Did Samsung choose the right folding format? And could it all work the way they said it did? Samsung consistently showed the device only behind glass, which raised doubts before the first test devices were shipped, and then they broke.
Huawei did things differently. Everyone who got their hands on the device on the MWC, for example, was thrilled. Even if, of course, the typical questions regarding durability were raised here as well. But all that followed were reports of problems and new messaging that it would still take some time before you could buy it. One must always bear in mind that folding smartphones, with their price tags up to $2,000, should only appeal to a small group of consumers anyway. Although there was and still is a great deal of interest in the technology overall.
But slowly the impression has spread that the folding smartphones could be vaporware. After all, Samsung had shown prototypes for years before this year. Other companies, like LG, simply haven't had the time yet to build a commercial, foldable smartphone.
The magic is already gone
Interestingly, Samsung seems to be working on the next models as well. TechRadar also reports that Huawei is already working on the successor to the Mate X, which will be released next year. What is metal on the current Mate X should become glass and possibly even be usable as a touch display.
The market analysts at IHS Markit continue to expect that in 2024 a good 50 million foldable OLED displays and thus perhaps also smartphones will be sold. It's supposed to go off in 2022. After this year's debacle, it is difficult to believe such figures. After all, 50 million foldable smartphones in a single year can only be possible if models are ready for purchase by then. They'll come. Samsung will certainly not postpone the date beyond September again. And Huawei probably doesn't want to follow much later than November. But it remains to be seen how many people will be able to buy these.
In addition, the false start should leave a stale aftertaste. It remains to be seen how many early adopters still want to be early adopters and how many other users are willing to trust the technology. The folding smartphones will come. Buyers will also find them. But is the future of folding smartphones already here? Definitely not. Samsung, Huawei and all the others must first prove that they can really bring the devices to market - and that they will prove to be durable. They've already lost their magic, at least for me.