The Story Of Foldable Smartphones: What We Know Thus Far

One foldable handset, the Royole FlexPai, had been announced a while back, while a ton more foldable handsets will be introduced throughout 2019. Many manufacturers already either showed us their demo devices, or confirmed the arrival of their foldable smartphone iterations. Some apparently highly relevant patents emerged online in the last couple of months and in order to make sense of all that, we’ve decided to create a comprehensive-yet-succinct take on the new technology wherein we will keep you updated as to what is going on in the world of flexible, bendable, foldable, and other such phenomenons. Every single section found below is dedicated to a manufacturer of its own, so all will be updated simultaneously

Royole

Royole is a company that many of you probably never heard of until the end of October, when the company introduced its first smartphone with a foldable display aka foldable smartphone, the Royole FlexPai. That handset made an appearance at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, and it is a nice indication of what is to come. The Royole FlexPai comes with rather thick bezels, and it sports a 7.8-inch Flexible AMOLED display with a resolution of 1920 x 1440, which comes down to 4:3 display aspect ratio. This phone folds outwards, and it’s actually quite thick when folded. The company said, back in October, that this display can be bent over 200,000 times without breaking. The device is fueled by the Snapdragon 855 64-bit octa-core processor, and it comes with 16 and 20-megapixel cameras. If you’d like to know more about the device, feel free to check out our official announcement.

Samsung

UPDATE (Feb. 21): Samsung had introduced its very first foldable smartphone along with the Galaxy S10 series, and its name is the "Galaxy Fold". The device folds like a book, and when unfolded, it has a rather large corner notch on the right. The Galaxy Fold is made out of metal and glass, and it's quite expensive. The phone will cost almost $2,000 once it becomes available. It comes with a large 7.3-inch QXGA+ Dynamic AMOLED display (4.2:3 display aspect ratio), and a secondary 4.6-inch HD+ Super AMOLED display (21:9 display aspect ratio). The phone also includes 12GB of RAM, 512GB of storage, and three cameras on the back. Stereo speakers are also a part of the package, as is Android 9 Pie. If you'd like to know more about the device, check out our official announcement.

EARLIER: Samsung is expected to announce its foldable smartphone either on February 20, along with the Galaxy S10 series, or in March, at least if rumors are to be believed. The company already showed us its demo foldable smartphone, that device was shown during the company’s developer conference in San Francisco at the beginning of November, and it gave us a good idea what to expect out of the company’s upcoming handset. That device folds inwards, which means that it has one large, and one small display. That small display is placed on the back of the phone when unfolded, and once you fold the main display, the smaller one lights up and lets you continue using the device.

That’s not all, though, Samsung “accidentally” posted a promo video in which it teased some upcoming technology, amongst which was a foldable smartphone. That video actually gave us a decent look at what seems to be the company’s upcoming foldable handset, and the device will sport really thin bezels, while it will be thinner than expected. The device that was shown in November last year was actually covered by a heavy-duty case, which did not allow us to check it out properly. In any case, that phone that Samsung showed off in the promo video utilizes the same technology as the demo device that was shown in November, which means that we’re looking at a phone with two displays, one of which will fold inwards.

Samsung had trademarked the “Galaxy Fold” name a while back, though the upcoming smartphone may even be called the “Galaxy Flex”. The “Galaxy F” and “Galaxy X” names were also mentioned at one point or another, but chances are that the company will opt for either the Galaxy Fold or Galaxy Flex name, at least that’s our guess. The company’s foldable device is rumored to sport a 7.3-inch main display, and a 4.5-inch secondary display, while rumors also claim that it will be extremely expensive, somewhere in the $1,700 - $2,500 range.

Xiaomi

Xiaomi is also working on a foldable smartphone, and that device was not only shown in a leaked video, but the company’s co-founder also demoed it in an official video posted on his Weibo (Chinese social media) account. The first video showing Xiaomi’s foldable device appeared at the very beginning of this year, on January 3, and it gave us a good idea as to what Xiaomi is planning to do. Unlike Samsung, Xiaomi plans to release a phone which folds outwards, and it folds in two places. So, essentially, the company is planning to include one large display in its smartphone, and once you fold its two sides, you’ll be left with one-third of that display to use, like a regular phone, while the other two thirds will be located on the back of the phone.

Xiaomi’s co-founder, Lin Bin, demoed the device in an official video, confirming the leaked video, basically. Once the device folds, its sides will be identical one to the other, and will be completely curved, unlike Samsung’s offering, in which one side will differ from the other. Though, on the other hand, the whole back side of Xiaomi’s smartphone will be a display, essentially, when the device is folded, and that design also makes us wonder where the phone’s rear-facing camera(s) will be, as it will be unusable when the device is folded, or at least it seems like it based on the device Xiaomi demoed. That was only a demo device, though, and the final product will probably look a bit different, it remains to be seen how will Xiaomi solve this, and when will the phone arrive, though it is expected to launch in the first half of 2019.

Motorola

Motorola did directly confirm that a foldable phone is coming, but it did do so via a news outlet earlier this month. Motorola, well, Motorola’s parent company, Lenovo, confirmed that the Motorola Razr is making a return, and it will sport a foldable display. The Motorola Razr was one of the company’s most iconic smartphones, it was a very popular flip phone back in the day, and it seems like the company is aiming to do a modern take on it. The Motorola Razr is actually expected to cost around $1,500, according to the aforementioned report, and even though no specific details were shared, Motorola’s patent sketches did reveal the possible design of the device.

If you take a look at the patented device, you will notice that it resembles the original Motorola Razr quite a bit. The phone will include that recognizable chin of the original Razr, and it will sport two displays. The main display will fold right down the middle, and the really small secondary panel will light up when that happens. A camera will be located above the secondary display, while a fingerprint scanner will sit on the back of the device. Some third-party concept renders also surfaced recently, and are based on that Motorola patent, so feel free to take a look at it, as the actual phone may resemble it.

LG

LG is more of a mystery when it comes to foldable smartphones, at least more of a mystery than the first couple of OEMs we talked about. The company is allegedly planning to introduce its foldable smartphone soon, but we did not see any official info just yet, aside from a number of patents that surfaced over time, including GBA-like patent sketches that appeared mid-December last year. Rumors back in December claimed that the LG-branded foldable device will launch during the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, but that did not happen, so it is possible that it will arrive at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona later this month, though LG still did not confirm anything.

LG did partner up with Huawei, Xiaomi, and Lenovo when it comes to foldable smartphones, at least based on reports from China, though we did not really see much info regarding that. LG is allegedly working with Huawei on a 6-inch foldable panel, so… we’ll see.
The company did trademark a bunch of names which could be used as names for its foldable smartphones, including Duplex, Foldi, and Flex. That is more or less it all the info that we have when it comes to LG, at least for now, but the company is expected to introduce a foldable smartphone in the first half of this year, much like many other major OEMs.

Huawei

UPDATE (Feb. 24): Huawei has introduced its Mate X foldable smartphone at MWC 2019. The company's very first foldable handset supports 5G, and Huawei used quite a different approach to Samsung. The Huawei Mate X folds outwards, and its main display splits into two smaller units, one on each side. When that happens, the phone's cameras sit next to one of those two displays, so you essentially get to use its main cameras as front-facing units as well. When unfolded, the phone does not sport display notches or camera holes, but a part of its back side is raised, the portion where the cameras are located. That part actually gives you a good way to grip the device when it's unfolded.

The Huawei Mate X is fueled by the Kirin 980, and the Balong 5000 5G modem chipset comes with the device. Huawei uses the "Falcon Wing Design" name for the design of the device, and the phone's main display measures 8 inches. When folded, you end up with 6.6-inch and 6.38-inch displays. The Huawei Mate X also support blazing fast charging, 55W Huawei SuperCharge, which can charge up the phone's battery from 0 to 85-percent in only 30 minutes, claims Huawei. The device will be priced at €2,299, and it will pack in 8GB of RAM and 512GB of storage.

EARLIER: Huawei will announce its very first foldable smartphone on February 24, the company has more or less confirmed that with its “Connecting The Future” MWC 2019 invite. That press conference will be hosted in Barcelona, during MWC 2019, and in the company’s invite, a part of its foldable phone is shown, the part with a hinge. Now, we may even know what the phone’s name will be, as Huawei trademarked Mate F, Mate Flex, Mate Flexi, and Mate Fold names with the EUIPO (European Union Intellectual Property Office) last year.

Some rumors regarding display sizes on the company’s phone also surfaced, claiming that the main display will be 8 inches in diagonal, while the secondary will be 5 inches large. That device will probably be fueled by the company’s Kirin 980 64-bit octa-core flagship processor, the same chip that fuels the Mate 20 series. In addition to that, the device will probably ship with 5G support as well, at least several rumors claim that will be the case, not to mention that the company introduced its Balong 5000 multi-mode 5G chipset recently. Huawei did patent some foldable phone designs back in March last year, so that design may indicate what the company’s device will look like.

OPPO

UPDATE (Feb. 25): OPPO did not exactly announce its foldable smartphone at MWC 2019, but the company's Vice President, Brian Shen, did show off the phone's prototype. He did that via his official Weibo (Chinese social network) account, while mentioning that the device may not even go to mass production. Shen said that OPPO plans to produce the phone if it sees enough demand for it, otherwise that may not happen.

OPPO's foldable handset prototype actually resembles the Huawei Mate X quite a bit, it also folds outwards, has that raised part on the right side of its back, and its cameras sit next to one of its displays when the phone is folded. This handset also doesn't sport display notches or holes, and it has two cameras, which are used as both its front and rear-facing units. Shen did not mention the phone's specifications at all, but it will probably be a high-end device if the company decides to sell it.

EARLIER: OPPO’s Product Manager, Chuck Wang, confirmed back in November last year that the company will introduce its first foldable phone in 2019, but he was not precise regarding the timeframe, so it may launch in the first or second half of the year, we’ll just have to wait and see. OPPO did patent a foldable smartphone design back in November, and that design may actually give us a good idea as to what to expect from OPPO in regards to foldable smartphones. It seems like the phone will fold outwards, and will sport a large display, half of which will be active when the phone is folded. That is pretty much all the info we have regarding OPPO’s foldable handset, thus far.

Lenovo

Not much info surfaced regarding Lenovo’s foldable smartphone, but according to reports from South Korea, which surfaced back in October 2018, the company is working on such a device. Lenovo’s foldable smartphone will, allegedly, feature LG’s 13-inch flexible display, which means this foldable device will be considerably larger than pretty much every other that we’ve mentioned today, at least if the reports thus far are to be believed. Lenovo will use an OLED panel for the device, and that display will fold down the middle, outwards, which means the device will feature only a single display, and when folded, you’ll have access to a 6-7-inch display. Lenovo did demo a foldable tablet way back in July 2017, so the company has been working on a foldable device for a while, but we still do not know when to expect it to launch.

TCL

UPDATE (Feb. 24): TCL did not announce its foldable smartphones at MWC 2019, but the company did present a hinge that will be included on them, the so-called "DragonHinge". On top of that, TCL said that it plans to manufacture various different foldable devices, and that it aims to release them in 2020. TCL's foldable phones will include OLED panels, and the DragonHinge is essentially a "mechanical housing" for TCLs foldable phones. TCL did say that it has several more challenges on the road before its foldable phones become a reality, but we'll hopefully see them arrive in 2020.

EARLIER: A report surfaced in mid-February claiming that TCL is working on its very own foldable smartphone which will fold into a smartwatch. In addition to that, TCL is reportedly developing two additional foldable phones, and two foldable tablets. The company did not confirm anything thus far, but not a single one of those devices is expected to arrive before 2020, according to the report that surfaced. TCL is reportedly considering various different approaches when it comes to design, so nothing is set in stone just yet.

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Kristijan has been writing for Android Headlines since 2014 and is an editor for the site. He has worked as a writer for several outlets before joining Android Headlines, and has a background in writing about Android and technology in general. He is a smartphone enthusiast that specializes in Android applications, and that platform in general. Contact him at Kristijan. [email protected]
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