All the folding smartphones you need to know about

The future unfolds: All the folding smartphones you need to know about

folding smartphones 2019 roundup foldable phones royal flexpai front
Dan Baker/Digital Trends

Over the coming year, and beyond, we’re going to see smartphone design as we know it evolve. Through the use of flexible screen technology, flexible batteries, and new ways of using established materials, the smartphone and tablet will become one. The end result is currently referred to as a folding smartphone, where a small, phone-sized device folds out to reveal a larger screen.

Many manufacturers are pushing to be among the first to launch one of these potentially groundbreaking products. We’re excited about them, and we know you are too. Want to get ahead of the crowd and keep up to date with which companies are working on what?

We’ve pulled together all the announced folding smartphone plans, along with all the rumors.

Samsung

When you think about folding smartphones today, you likely think of Samsung, as it has been developing a folding or flexible smartphone for years. The result of its hard work will possibly be revealed on February 20 with the Galaxy S10. We don’t know what the device will be called or exactly how it will look, but there have been plenty of rumors and teasers circulating over the past months.

Expect Samsung’s folding smartphone to have two screens, which will measure 4.6 inches folded up, and 7.3 inches when unfolded, and an almost bezel-less body. Cameras taken from the forthcoming Galaxy S10 may also feature, along with a Snapdragon 855 processor, a pair of batteries, and a special user interface made for the foldable hardware. There may even be a 5G version of the device.

Everything else, from the launch and release date, to the name and the eventual price is unknown. We don’t expect it to be cheap though, just like all foldable smartphones released in 2019. However, simply from the amount of time Samsung has spent working on a foldable device, we’ve got very high hopes for it.

Huawei

Although Samsung may end up being first to announce a folding smartphone, Huawei may be hot on its heels. The company has already started teasing its own folding smartphone for Mobile World Congress 2019, and a press conference to be held on February 24. Huawei hasn’t kept quiet about the project either, revealing not only that the device is coming, but also that it will have 5G connectivity. We know even less about Huawei’s folding smartphone than we do about Samsung’s. The good thing is, we don’t have long to wait until we find out a lot more.

LG

LG’s track record with flexible screens is as interesting as Samsung’s, having released two devices with flexible screens, but not bodies, in the past — the G Flex and the G Flex 2. Rumors spread about an LG flexible smartphone towards the end of 2018, and it was suggested that the company might show such a phone at CES 2019. This wasn’t the case, and because LG has never officially commented on such a device, we don’t know if one is still coming, or if it ever was in the first place.

However, there’s no question that LG has the technical ability to build one, and is almost certainly watching the growing interest in the new type of design.

Xiaomi

xiaomi folding smartphone news phone prototype

Xiaomi hasn’t come out and said it’s making a folding smartphone, but it has shown off a prototype which may or may not be destined for public release in the future. The phone doesn’t have a name or any firm specifications attached. The folding smartphone was shown in a video being used by Xiaomi CEO Lei Jun, and it showed a slightly different type of folding design to other concepts and prototypes we’ve seen. Exciting stuff, but not absolute evidence that a Xiaomi folding smartphone will come in the near future.

Oppo

Oppo, which is in the midst of making itself better known around the world, apparently will bring a folding smartphone to Mobile World Congress 2019. This is information from the company itself, rather than an unsubstantiated rumor, which gives us hope the timeline is accurate. However, while it may show such a device at MWC, there’s no guarantee it will be a device ready for sale.

Royale

folding smartphones 2019 roundup foldable phones royal flexpai back
Dan Baker/Digital Trends

Technically the only folding smartphone with a folding display that you can actually buy at the moment, the Royale Flexpai is more proof-of-concept than an everyday usable smartphone. The phone unfolds to show a 7.8-inch screen, has a pair of cameras, a Snapdragon processor, and special software too. Royale is an expert in flexible screen technology, which has enabled it to get a head start on much larger firms, but the current product still feels like an exciting prototype.

We’ve had the chance to play with the Royale Flexpai, and if you’re tempted to try one out, a developer version can be purchased for around $1,300 online. We don’t really recommend it, though, unless you’re a keen software developer wanting to get started with apps suited to folding screens.

Motorola

One of the juiciest rumors about folding smartphones comes with the Motorola name attached, as the famous brand may use the new design to resurrect the classic Razr name. The original Razr folded up as a flip phone, so the brand synergy is there, and Motorola executives have spoken about bringing the new tech together with the old name before.

Everything we think we know about the device comes from rumors. It may have a 7-inch screen when unfolded, a couple of cameras, and even an unusual triple-hinge layout. The announcement date, release, and price are all unknown.

Apple

Secretive Apple is unlikely to give anything about future plans away, but it’s a solid bet the company is experimenting with different designs that may (or may not) eventually become an iPhone, iPad, or a new product entirely. So far, the only hint Apple is exploring foldable smartphones comes from patents for hinge designs, and folding mobile device screens. But patents do not always reflect products or technology planned for public release.

Google

Google is working on a version of Android suited for use on foldable smartphones, and already produces the Google Pixel line of regular smartphones. It’s not much of a stretch to imagine a folding Pixel phone in the future. However, given we’re still waiting for a Pixel Watch, it may not be any time soon. Details have spread that Google is working on such a device, with evidence coming from patents and unsubstantiated rumors so far.

ZTE

zte axon m tent
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

ZTE became something of a trailblazer with the launch of the Axon M — an actual folding smartphone — at the end of 2017, predating all the current hype by at least six months. No, it wasn’t all that good, and the two separate displays hinged together didn’t look as futuristic as the devices we’re hearing about today, but it does fit the basic profile. Patents have been seen since from ZTE that show it may be working on a different model, potentially using what it learned from the Axon M on a more up-to-date version.

The ZTE Axon M remains one of the few foldable smartphones you can buy today.

Energizer

Proof that every company and its dog wants a piece of the foldable smartphone action is the news Energizer has one in its 2019 line-up. Better known for its batteries than its phones, Energizer says the foldable smartphone — along with 25 other devices — will be at Mobile World Congress. Nothing else is known about the device yet.

Microsoft and Intel

Microsoft has likely abandoned plans for a Surface Phone, but may be working on a hybrid phone/tablet/laptop known as the Andromeda, and it may have a folding chassis. The rumors point more to it being an evolution of the 2-in-1 laptop with additional phone features than a strict phone/tablet hybrid. Patents from Intel, which have been turned into renders, show what the device may look like. Intel doesn’t produce hardware itself, but will make reference devices to help other manufacturers visualize what’s possible.

We’ll continue updating this piece as we learn more about folding smartphones.

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