Foldable smartphones are all the rage these days and a good many OEMs seem eager to cash in on the latest trend. The latest possible entrants are Google and ZTE, as patents from both the companies have been spotted which suggest they are considering phones with flexible displays.
Google filed its patent back in June 2018 and it was published in December. Apparently, the search giant is considering multiple designs. The first is an inward folding device with a clamshell-like design. The company is also considering a phone with a Z-shaped phone that has three sections and two hinges. Such a design would allow for a much bigger display when the phone is unfolded.
Although Samsung and Huawei have both revealed their foldable smartphones, neither Galaxy Fold nor Mate X has been released yet so it remains to be seen how the market would respond to devices that cost around $2,000. Although the first generation of foldable devices will have their own inherent problems, such as a creasing display and chunky dimensions, some analysts believe that foldable phones are one of the inventions that can take the smartphone market out of the current lull. Although Google's patent has only been spotted now, the company has already pledged software support for the new form factor and the Android Q Beta 1 also supports foldable phones so it's not all that surprising too that it is also considering making a bendable phone of its own.
Based on the patents, it seems that Google is in the early stages of the design phase so it could be a long time before the company actually starts producing foldable phones. For now, Google is reportedly gearing up to launch Google Pixel 3 Lite and Pixel 3 XL Lite, which would be affordable versions of the Pixel 3 duo without all the bells and whistles.
Moving on, certain images from ZTE's patent application that was published in China in December have also surfaced which show that it might also come out with a foldable phone. The images show a phone that is reminiscent of the Galaxy Fold with an outward folding design. However, it seems like ZTE is considering multiple designs too, as a patent filed with WIPO shows a phone that folds inwards horizontally but not completely, leaving the lower part of the display visible.
Of course, a patent doesn't necessarily mean anything and in no way confirms that the design would be commercialized. That being said, foldable displays are considered the next big thing by many and it is unlikely that any major OEM would decide to skip the trend.
However, some, like Apple and LG are testing the waters and waiting to gauge market response before diving in. Like with any other nascent technology, OEMs would need time to perfect their foldable designs. Beyond the physical design, there is also an aspect of utility as consumers are unlikely to shell out 2000 bucks on a phone for the mere thrill of bendable displays. However, in the next few years, the price of foldable smartphones might come down, provided they stick around for that long.