Make no mistake, in 2019 we’re going to see more than a few folding smartphones, and one is possibly going to come from Chinese maker Xiaomi. The company’s president and co-founder Bin Lin has shared a video online showing a prototype of its folding smartphone, but it’s not the same design we’ve seen from Samsung and Royale. Xiaomi says it’s the world’s first double folding smartphone, and it’s really impressive.
Excited to share this video of a special Xiaomi smartphone from our President and Co-founder Bin Lin. It is the world’s first ever double folding phone — that’s pretty cool, isn’t it? #xiaomi #foldingphone #technology pic.twitter.com/iBj0n3vIbW
— Wang Xiang (@XiangW_) January 23, 2019
What does double folding mean? You can see in the video, which starts off with co-founder Lin using a device with a tablet-sized screen before he turns it on its side and folds in either side. At the same time, the center of the display resizes to more normal smartphone size. In a brief spin round at the end, you can see the two side flaps neatly folded at the back. Previously, the folding smartphones we’ve seen fold in half, like a reverse book, and sometimes have two screens. The Xiaomi has a single screen.
In a message posted on the Weibo social network, where the video was first shown, Lin wrote how Xiaomi has overcome some of the technical problems associated with folding smartphones, including developing a new type of hinge technology and making sure the software works correctly. Despite this, the version of MIUI on the prototype device still shows teething problems when the screen alters shape and size. While we’d imagine this will be cured before it’s released, it’s evidence of the challenge manufacturers have when it come to adapting software for this type of screen.
Will it ever be released? Xiaomi is asking for feedback, and says that if it’s positive, it will consider putting the device into mass production. Xiaomi is also asking for help on the name, mentioning the Xiaomi Dual Flex or Mix Flex for now, but adds it’s open to suggestion for alternatives. On Twitter, Xiaomi’s global spokesperson Donovan Sung says the phone is, “Double the folding, double the fun,” and Xiaomi’s senior vice president Wang Xiang tweeted that the phone is a world first, and “pretty cool.”
It’s impossible to disagree. Software stutters aside, it’s an impressive looking device, mostly because the folded phone does not look as bulky as others. This is essential if we’re going to carry a folding smartphone around in a pocket. The model for the ideal folding smartphones is still being formed, so it’s great to see alternative styles are being experimented with by manufacturers. Also, Xiaomi has been a pioneer with cutting-edge tech in the past — the Mi Mix and its bezel-less screen — so expectations are high here.
There’s no indication when, or if, the Xiaomi folding smartphone will be released.