Truly foldable smartphones will debut in late 2018 and will almost certainly launch as part of the Android ecosystem, with every company committing significant resources toward the commercialization of such solutions being an Android OEM, DigiTimes reported Monday, citing industry sources familiar with recent developments in the mobile space. Several handset manufacturers are presently ramping up their research and development efforts meant to allow them to release foldable devices in the near future, with Samsung still believed to be at the forefront of the next significantly redesigned take on the concept of a contemporary smartphone. The Seoul-based tech giant is widely expected to detail its product roadmap for foldable mobile devices by the end of the year, with the company already confirming it's working on such offerings at this year's Mobile World Congress.
Samsung has also secured dozens of foldable smartphone patents in recent years, being the industry's most active OEM by that metric. Many of its rivals have also been patenting their own designs, with such concepts ranging from hinge-equipped handsets like the ZTE Axon M to much more unconventional creations such as LG's device concept boasting two screens, batteries, and even 3.5mm headphone jacks. Samsung is still understood to be much closer to commercializing a truly foldable phone in the next 12 months, with industry sources estimating the company already finalized approximately 80-percent of the manufacturing process meant to allow for mass production of such products. The South Korean OEM has been pursuing foldable handsets for at least half a decade now but often restarted its efforts from scratch after facing major technical challenges related to product durability and yield rates, according to a broad range of previous reports.
Huawei, OPPO, and Lenovo are also considering foldable and bendable handsets, according to recent patent filings. ZTE itself said it's adamant to keep iterating on the Axon M formula and eventually deliver a truly foldable device, not just one that essentially connects two regular screens with a hinge. Apple also patented certain clamshell designs in recent times but isn't expected to attempt commercializing related technologies in the next several years. If Samsung ends up being unable to release a foldable smartphone by the end of the year, it's likely to be beaten to that industry first by Huawei that is now expected to have one such product ready in late 2018, as per the latest report out of Taiwan.