It seems like OPPO is working on its own foldable smartphone, following in Samsung's and LG's footsteps. A new patent has been discovered, it was submitted by OPPO, and it basically shows off what the company's upcoming foldable device may look like. Based on the looks of this patent, and the way it would work, it seems like OPPO may actually use Samsung's displays in order to make this happen, though the patent does not confirm anything of the sort, of course. In any case, this patent would require a flexible display in order to become a thing, as the display bends when you close the device, same as the one that Samsung demoed recently. In any case, this smartphone design got patented on November 13, according to the source, and the design was published by the Chinese patent office, which is called "SIPO". This design was actually submitted back in September, but it took some time to get approved and published by SIPO.
Now, as part of this patent, OPPO actually submitted several slightly different designs, they're all the same in terms of how the phone bends and the device folds, but the camera positions are different in each one of them. When the device is unfolded, you can use one large display, you can basically use the device as a tablet, when folded, half of the phone's display will be usable. Unlike on Samsung's foldable smartphone, it seems like OPPO's does not have a separate display on the outside, but you'll get to use half of its general display when the device is folded, which essentially means that half of its display will be usable on one side, while the other half of the display will be used as the phone's back cover, basically. This may not be an ideal solution, as the second half of the display will be more prone to scratches, as it will serve as the phone's back cover, and you'll be playing the device on various surfaced when you're not using it. This is just a patent, though, it remains to be seen what will OPPO's final product look like.
Background: OPPO is not the only company working on a foldable smartphone, not even close to it. Samsung had already shown off its demo device at its developer conference recently, while both LG and Huawei confirmed that they're working on foldable devices as well. In fact, all three of those companies will probably introduce their foldable smartphone before OPPO, but it remains to be seen what will happen. LG is rumored to show off its foldable smartphone as early as January next year, as the device is expected to make an appearance at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, that's all we know about the phone, though. Huawei, on the other hand, was initially expected to introduce its foldable smartphone in the second half of 2019, but it seems like the company is looking to show it off much sooner than that, in the first half of the year, maybe even at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona… at least is rumors are to be believed.
Samsung is also expected to announce its foldable smartphone in early 2019, though we still do not know when exactly. The Galaxy S10 series is expected to debut at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in February, though nothing has been confirmed yet, so the company probably won't introduce its foldable device along with its new flagship smartphones, so Samsung is either planning to host a separate event for the announcement of its foldable handset, or perhaps introduce it at CES in Las Vegas, even though that seems to be a bit soon for that launch. On the other hand, maybe the company opts to host a separate event for the Galaxy S10 launch, and unveil its foldable phone at MWC, who knows. As far as OPPO is concerned, we're still in the dark when it comes to timing of the launch of this foldable smartphone, this is the very first such patent we're seeing from OPPO, so at this point we can only guess when will such a phone become a reality, but chances are the company will announce it in 2019.
Neither of these companies will be first when it comes to releasing a foldable smartphone, though, as a company called Royole already introduced the Royole FlexPai smartphone, a foldable smartphone which sports a 7.8-inch AMOLED display. The company introduced its phone last month, in February, before Samsung had the chance to do the same. Speaking of Samsung, the company patented a number of foldable smartphone-related designs to date, but recently, Samsung actually patented a "dual fold" design, what seems to be some sort of a foldable tablet, one part of it folds over the middle part of the display, while the second part goes to the other side, so that you can end up using one third of the device's overall screen real estate when the device is folded.
Impact: Foldable smartphone will not become a standard in 2019, it actually remains to be seen if they will become a standard at all, or is this just a passing trend. It will be interesting to see what all of those companies have to offer though, even though there are a number of concerns when it comes to foldable smartphones. Bezels are one concern, as they will probably be thicker than in today's flagships, while the sheer thickness of those phones is yet another concern. Phones that fold have to be considerably thicker than regular smartphones, and those that fold twice… well, those will be extremely thick, quite probably. So, it remains to be seen how useful will foldable smartphone be if they're thick and you cannot really put them in your pocket as you would a regular smartphone. Price points are yet another concern, as Samsung's foldable phone is actually rumored to cost around $2,000. Those are just some concerns when it comes to foldable devices, but it remains to be seen what will we get, in the end.