OPPO will unveil its first foldable smartphone at Mobile World Congress in February, product manager Chuck Wang told Dutch news outlet Tweakers. Details on design and specifications are missing but this isn't the first time the OEM has shown signs of interest in manufacturing foldable mobile devices. In addition to unveiling a phone boasting the new form factor, the report mentions that the OEM will introduce a 5G-enabled smartphone for Europe in the first half of 2019, but once again detailed specifications have not been mentioned. Several smartphone makers have plans for releasing 5G phones next year so it doesn't sound far-fetched for the Chinese OEM to have similar plans for its mobile product portfolio next year, especially given that OPPO already performed several tests surrounding 5G technologies and mobile phones.
Background: Although OPPO hasn't been the first smartphone maker to get on board the idea of a foldable smartphone, over the past couple of months several patents have emerged to confirm that the Chinese OEM is, at least, considering the creation of such devices. These patents revealed concepts of smartphones that can turn into tablets once folded out, similar to the prototype showcased by Samsung at SDC a few weeks back. At the moment, it's unclear how far OPPO may have advanced the foldable smartphone project forward and whether the product set to be showcased at MWC near the end of February will be an early prototype or a device that will be closer to a market release, but judging by earlier patents the OEM might borrow a page from Samsung's playbook and deliver a foldable phone featuring a single hinge along with a flexible display that wraps around it.
As for OPPO's 5G efforts, earlier this spring the OEM managed to make the first 5G-based 3D video call using a modified version of the OPPO R11s, while later in the summer, the OEM showcased a modified version of the OPPO R15 Android device in China, boasting 5G connectivity powered by the Snapdragon X50 modem from Qualcomm. The company's efforts to achieve 5G continued and in October the OEM used a prototype smartphone to establish a 5G connection to the Internet. Having said that, the idea that OPPO will introduce its first commercially-available phone in the first half of 2019 is very plausible, especially since OPPO is not the only OEM that aims to achieve this. LG is presently collaborating with Sprint to produce a 5G smartphone for the U.S. carrier and there have been reports indicating that at least one of the upcoming Samsung Galaxy S10 variants will be 5G-enabled.
Impact: Several OEMs are slowly but surely pushing the foldable smartphone concept forward but only time will tell if these devices will become niche products or replace the usual chocolate-bar form factor in the coming years. OPPO proved time and again that it doesn't shy away from unconventional smartphone designs and the foldable smartphone seems to fit the Chinese smartphone maker's usual M.O. very well. Earlier this year OPPO lost the fourth spot in the smartphone global market to Xiaomi, but these new challenges faced by OEMs in regards to 5G and foldable form factors could reshuffle their position in the market to a certain extent. OPPO seems to want to be at the forefront of these changes in the mobile world and MWC in late February will apparently be the place where the OEM will showcase its latest efforts in the new areas of technology.