The foldable phone trend is undeniably on the rise, with everyone from big-name Samsung to unknown startup Royole ready to inject a much-needed jolt into the industry by innovating foldable phones with flexible, bendy displays. With one foldable phone already available to buy and a couple of others expected this year, it looks to be that a foldable phone that can open up like a tablet and still fit into your pocket isn’t a far-off concept any longer. And Google’s committed to providing Android support for foldable designs, so we can expect even more phone companies to get involved with the trend.
It’s starting to get confusing which companies have announced plans, filed a patent or are simply rumored to jump on the foldable bandwagon. Here’s our who’s-who guide to foldable phones.
Royole FlexPai: Available now
Developed by a startup headquartered in Fremont, California, the Royole Flexpai phone debuted last October. The phone has a plastic, 7.8-inch AMOLED screen and it’s already on sale. You’ll pay $1,318 (£1,209) for the 6GB of RAM and 128GB variant. And it’s $1,469 (£1,349) for the 8GB of RAM and 256GB version. (Australian prices weren’t released, but they convert to about AU$2,180 and AU$2,440, respectively.)
The FlexPai closes like a book, with its screen on the outside. It runs an OS called Water that’s layered on top of Google Android 9.0. Whichever way you choose to hold or bend the device, the screen adjusts to its many different orientations and viewing options. Though rough around the edges when we got our hands on it, the FlexPai gives us a solid glimpse of what the future of foldable phones may hold.
Samsung Galaxy X or Galaxy F: Confirmed, expected in March
Samsung’s the biggest tech company to throw its hat into the ring, so many are eager to see what it has in store. Rumored to be called either the Galaxy X or Galaxy F (bad idea!), Galaxy Flex or Galaxy Fold, its folding phone is anticipated to be launched in March.
Samsung gave a shadowy peek of a Galaxy X prototype during its developer’s conference in November. It didn’t give us many details aside from the fact that the phone has a 4.5-inch screen that opens up to a 7.3-inch screen and that it will use Samsung’s new One UI interface. It will also feature a new polymer display developed by Samsung called the Infinity Flex Display. Ultrathin and bendable, the Infinity Flex display can supposedly flex hundreds of thousands of times without breaking.
During Mobile World Congress Shanghai in June 2018, Huawei confirmed that its first 5G phone, which is set to be announced in February and due out some time at the end of June 2019, will have a foldable screen. We’ll likely see the phone, or learn more about it, in February during MWC 2019. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely that the phone will come to the US. Citing security reasons, the US government banned the sale of Huawei phones on US military bases and retailers have stopped selling its products. Huawei devices are still available in more than 170 countries around the world, however, according to a Huawei spokesperson.
Xiaomi Dual Flex or Mix Flex: Confirmed
On Wednesday, Chinese phone maker Xiaomi introduced its new foldable phone on the social media platform Weibo. Unlike previous phones we’ve seen, which have only one bend down the middle, Xiaomi’s phone folds down into thirds, with both sides folding down.
Xiaomi co-founder and president Bin Lin said this form factor is “practical and beautiful” and that it “perfectly merges the experience of a tablet and a phone.” No specs or pricing information were given, but Xiaomi is currently taking votes on two possible names: Dual Flex or MIX Flex.
Apple: Rumored, with patent application
In November 2017, Apple filed for another patent application for a phone with a foldable display and body (this was in addition to a 2016 and 2014 application for a flexible display). According to the filings, the device “may have a flexible portion that allows the device to be folded.”
But keeping with its usual style, Apple has remained mum on details. So far, nothing has come to fruition with any of these patents in the public eye, and there hasn’t been any info on what this device might be (and if it will even be a phone at all) or a timeline to expect such products.
Lenovo: Rumored, with patent application
In 2016, Lenovo introduced the CPlus, a phone that could bend and wrap around your wrist. While it was just a concept phone back then, Lenovo has been making inroads to release a real foldable phone to the masses. Last July it filed a patent application for a “portable information device” with a “foldable configuration.”
Back in 2014, LG launched the G Flex, a phone with a curved screen. More recently at CES 2019, it showed off a rollable TV that will be on sale later this year. We know that LG has the technology in the works for a flexible phone and the company is indeed working on one.
For now, we have no idea what the phone will look like, how much it will cost or when it will arrive. There were rumors that LG was going to introduce one at CES, but that turned out to be a false alarm. As for the upcoming Mobile World Trade conference in February, LG is said to be launching a phone with two screens. Just don’t expect it to fold.
Motorola, which Lenovo acquired in 2014, is rumored to resurrect its popular Motorola Razr phone with a folding-screen variant. It supposedly will launch with Verizon and cost $1,500.
Refreshing the Razr would be a smart move on Motorola. Since its original launch in 2004, the beloved phone has gained an iconic status for its sleek design, thin profile and various color variations at the time.