ZTE's foldable Android smartphone will be released in early 2018, BusinessKorea reported on Thursday, citing recent industry data compiled by Strategy Analytics. The Chinese original equipment manufacturer is still rumored to launch its foldable device later this month, with sources previously claiming that the company's October 17th event in New York City will be used as a platform for the unveiling of what should become the first consumer-grade foldable smartphone. The handset in question is said to be codenamed Multy and may be marketed as the ZTE Axon M, though it remains unclear why the device would be launched months before hitting the market. It's possible that the Chinese company still doesn't have the capacity or resources to manufacture the ZTE Axon M at a large scale but is seeking to beat Samsung Electronics to the title of the first tech giant with a foldable phone.
The device itself is rumored to be equipped with two display panels which will rotate on hinges, being capable of connecting to a degree and acting as a single tablet-like screen. Strategy Analytics expects foldable smartphones to remain a niche category throughout 2017, projecting that OEMs will manage to sell only around 700,000 of them. However, that figure could rise to 13.6 million devices in 2020 and more than half a billion units five years from now, the company claims. Foldable handsets of the future won't be too similar to the ones that are expected to debut by 2018 as OEMs manage to perfect their techniques and deliver devices that are truly bendable, featuring bodies that are both flexible and durable. In the short term, foldable handsets are likely to be less impressive from a technological standpoint but should still help phone makers test the initial response from consumers and refine their offerings.
A truly rollable device may be released approximately one year after a foldable one is, Strategy Analytics speculates, noting how this product category is still set to remain a small niche in the medium term and is unlikely to account for more than one percent of global smartphone sales until at least 2022. Samsung previously confirmed it's working on a foldable smartphone which should debut at some point next year as an alternative to the Galaxy S9 series.