Phones with true flexible and foldable displays are finally on the way! After a brief flirtation with phones like ZTE Axon M, which joins two screens with a hinge in a clamshell design, the first foldable phones with truly flexible displays should hit the market in the U.S. this fall. In this article, we will take a look at the current and upcoming foldable phone devices with flexible displays we’ve heard about so far. However, before we do that, let’s take a look at the many delays and issues that have plagued the launch of foldable phones in 2019.
Foldable phones: Missteps and delays in 2019
As 2019 started, Samsung and Huawei were both planning to launch their foldable phones with flexible displays later in the year. Samsung was going to beat Huawei to market with the Galaxy Fold, but just days before its planned April 26 launch in the U.S, the company delayed its release. This was due to many media outlets reporting that their review units of the Galaxy Fold suffered from broken displays, caused by accidentally removing a protective layer off its screen. Another media outlet, The Verge, reported that its review use had bumps under the display in the middle hinge area. It speculated that dust or grit had found its way under the screen.
Samsung eventually decided to delay the launch of the Galaxy Fold by over four months, as it redesigned elements of the foldable phone to fix the problems reported by those media outlets. The biggest change was to extend that display protection screen beyond the bezel so it could not be removed at all. Another change was to add new protection caps on both the top and the bottom of the phone’s middle hinge area, which should prevent any small particals from getting under the screen. Finally, the Galaxy Fold’s hinge area itself now has less space between it and the body of the phone.
The Samsung Galaxy Fold went on sale in the company’s home country of South Korea on September 6, and is officially scheduled to be released in Europe on September 18. While Samsung has yet to officially confirm a new release date in the U.S., unconfirmed reports claim that it will go on sale on September 27, just over five months after its original release date. Pre-registrations for the Galaxy Fold have already begun again in the U.S.
The Huawei Mate X had a slightly different problem with making its release date. The phone was supposed to launch in June 2019, but the company claims that due to Samsung’s issues with the Galaxy Fold, it delayed the launch and set a September release date for its foldable phone. Now it appears that the phone won’t launch until October. In a chat with journalists at IFA 2019, Huawei consumer business group CEO Richard Yu claimed the Mate X had to make some unnamed changes to its display before it was ready for mass production. Also, the company claims that it wanted to work with app developers so they could create apps that would work with its larger screen. Finally, since the Mate X is also a 5G device, Huawei wanted to get more 5G testing with its wireless carrier partners.
One thing Huawei has not addressed is if the Mate X delays have anything to do with its issues with the U.S. government. The U.S. put Huawei on its Department of Commerce’s Entity List in May, which bans U.S.-based companies from working with Huawei. While that ban has been officially put on hold for some products until late November, its possible that the Mate X may not be able to be launched with Google’s Android OS as originally planned.
It’s likely that the delays for the Samsung Galaxy Fold and the Huawei Mate X have also caused other phone makers to delay their foldable phones plans as well. That may have included Motorola’s plans to launch a revival of its RAZR brand as a foldable phone. The Wall Street Journal claimed that such a phone was going to launch as early as February 2019. However, there are no indications that device is coming to consumers anytime soon.
With that rather bumpy history lesson out of the way, let’s look at the current status of the foldable phones with flexible displays that are currently on sale, along with ones that have been announced
Best foldable phones
- Motorola RAZR (rumored)
- Xiaomi foldable phone (prototype)
- Oppo foldable phone (prototype)
- LG Foldable phone (rumored)
Editor’s note: We will be updating this list of foldable phones as more devices hit the market and more information is revealed.
1. Samsung Galaxy Fold
Samsung has teased us for years about its flexible phone plans. In early November 2018, at its annual developer conference, the company showed off a teaser of its first consumer foldable display phone. In February, at its Unpacked press event, Samsung revealed more info about its foldable phone, along with its official name, the Samsung Galaxy Fold.
The phone, when closed, can be used as a smartphone with a 4.6-inch HD+ Super AMOLED external screen. When it unfolds to its full size, it will act as a tablet thanks to the 7.3-inch QXGA+ Dynamic AMOLED Infinity Flex display.
The Samsung Galaxy Fold will also have a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor, 12GB of RAM and 512GB of storage inside, along with two batteries totaling 4,380mAh. It will also have six cameras: three on the back, one on the front, and two on the inside.
The standard 4G version of the Galaxy Fold was supposed to go on sale April 26 in the U.S. for $1,980 and in Europe on May 3 for 2000 euros. However, the company postponed the release of the phone after some media outlets experienced display failures on their review units. The Galaxy Fold is now on sale in South Korea. It is scheduled to go on sale in Europe on September 18, and unconfirmed reports claim it will finally hit the U.S. on September 27. AT&T is currently the only U.S. carrier scheduled to sell the Samsung Galaxy Fold. T-Mobile was supposed to sell the foldable phone back when it was originally supposed to be released in April, but has since announced it will no longer sell the Galaxy Fold.
There will also be a 5G version of this foldable phone, but it also doesn’t have a release date, and it will not be sold in the U.S. Samsung is already rumored to be working on its next foldable phone, which might have a flip phone design. It is rumored to launch in 2020.
2. Royole FlexPai
It turns out the first true foldable phone showed up from a company few have heard of, even though it’s been developing flexible display technology for many years. The China-based Royole surprised the industry in late October by announcing it would release the Royole FlexPai.
In its unfolded mode, it serves as a 7.8-inch tablet with a 1440p AMOLED display. Through the use of Royole’s flexible film technology, the sides of the FlexPai can fold 180 degrees, making each display face out. One of them becomes the “primary” display in this mode and the other serves as the secondary screen. Each side apparently has a display of about four inches.
In addition, the spine of the flexible display also works as a third small display for notifications. The display itself can fold over 200,000 times before it stops working, so it should last several years. Inside, the FlexPai will have the“Qualcomm next-gen Snapdragon 8 series SoC,” rumored to be the Snapdragon 855/8150.
We had the opportunity to go hands-on with a prototype of the FlexPai. Although the device experienced some understandable performance issues due to its use of a hitherto unprecedented display mode, Royole claims it will fix the issues we encountered before the FlexPai ships.
Officially, the company is selling the phone via flash sales in China. Pricing starts at 8,999 yuan (~$1291) for the 6GB RAM and 128GB storage model, 9,998 yuan (~$1434) for the 8GB RAM and 256GB storage version, and 12,999 yuan (~$1864) for the 8GB RAM and 512GB storage variant.
As we mentioned earlier, the company is also selling a version of the FlexPai worldwide on its main site as a “developer edition.” It’s priced at $1,318 for the 6GB RAM and 128GB storage version, and at $1,460 for the 8GB RAM and 256GB storage edition.
3. Huawei Mate X
At Mobile World Congress 2019, Huawei officially unveiled what it had been hinting about for months; it’s first foldable phone. The Huawei Mate X takes a different approach than the Galaxy Fold in terms of its design. In its smaller smartphone mode, it works as a dual-display device, with the main display sized as a 6.6-inch panel a 19.5:9 aspect ratio. When you flip the phone to its rear display, it has a 6.38-inch panel with a 25:9 aspect ratio. Also, when in phone mode, there’s a digital “bezel” that appears along the folded edge of the device so it looks more like a normal smartphone.
However, when the two sides of the display are folded out, it turned into a large 8-inch tablet with a 8:7.1 aspect ratio and a 2,480 x 2,200 resolution. Inside, the Huawei Mate X will have the company’s in-house Kirin 980 processor and Balong 5000 modem, which is able to connect to the upcoming 5G networks. It also has 8GB of RAM and 512GB of internal storage, a Leica triple camera and a 4,500mAh battery (actually two batteries that combined will be 4,500mAh in size)
The Huawei Mate X was supposed to cost 2,299 euros or about $2,600. It was supposed to go on sale in Europe and China sometime later this summer. However, Huawei recently announced it was delaying the launch of the Mate X until sometime in September. Now that date is apparently been missed as well, as the Mate X might finally launch in October. Huawei has also stated a version of the phone with its next in-house processor, the Kirin 990, could be launched later.
4. Energizer Mobile Power Max P8100S foldable phone
Avenir Telecom, a mobile phone maker who has released handsets that use the Energizer battery brand name, recently revealed that it will show off a number of new phones at the Mobile World Congress trade show in late February, including a foldable smartphone. It was true to its word, as it did indeed show off a foldable phone, the Power Max P8100S, at MWC 2019. Like the Samsung Galaxy Fold, the Energizer Power Max P8100S will have just one display, a 6-inch screen with Full HD+ resolution on the outside in smartphone mode. When folded out like a book, it will turn into an 8.1-inch display tablet with Full HD+ resolution. It also has one very ugly hinge in the middle.
Other specs include the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor, 8GB of RAM, 256GB of expandable storage, dual rear 48MP and 12MP cameras, a 24MP front-facing camera, and a huge 10,000mAh battery. The phone is also supposed to connect to 5G networks. The Energizer Power Max P8100S will cost 850 euros (~$966) when it is released sometime later in 2019.
5. TCL foldable phone
A recent report on CNET detailed TCL’s plans for entering the foldable phone race. The China-based company has several concepts for foldable phones and tablets, including one foldable smartphone that can be wrapped around a wrist to become a really big smartwatch. It’s unknown which of these concepts will be the first to be released, but TCL says its debut foldable phone will launch sometime in 2020.
At MWC 2019, the company showed off some of these foldable phone concepts. There’s no guarantee that any of these designs will be turned into real consumer products, but we do know TCL has developed its own DragonHinge technology for these phones. The company stated it will have a special mechanical housing designed to fold and bend smartphones and tablets in a variety of ways. TCL added that it will create foldable phones with custom flexible AMOLED displays that will be provided by TCL’s sister company, CSOT.
6. Motorola RAZR foldable phone
Lenovo, via its Motorola division, is rumored by the Wall Street Journal to be developing a foldable phone that would be sold exclusively by Verizon Wireless. The story claims that the phone would use the Motorola RAZR branding, which was also used as the name for its highly popular flip phones that were huge hits over a decade ago. There’s no official word on the hardware details of this rumored Motorola RAZR foldable phone, but the WSJ report stated it could have a price as high as $1,500, and that Lenovo has a target of making 200,000 units of the Motorola RAZR foldable phone.
The WSJ reported stated Verizon was planning on selling the Motorola RAZR as early as February. However, February has come and gone with no such RAZR foldable phone announcement from Motorola. Since then, there are other rumors that the phone is still in the works, but those reports claim it won’t be a flagship device in terms of its hardware specs.
Hopefully, this story is more than just vaporware. We will be keeping an eye out on those phone in the weeks and months ahead.
7. Xiaomi foldable phone
Can’t speak to the authenticity of this video or device, but it’s allegedly made by Xiaomi, I’m told. Hot new phone, or gadget porn deepfake? pic.twitter.com/qwFogWiE2F
— Evan Blass (@evleaks) January 3, 2019
The first report about a possible foldable smartphone from Xiaomi started via noted gadget leaker Evan Blass (@evleaks). He posted a video on his Twitter feed in January that showed some kind of phone with a flexible display. He stated the video is allegedly of a Xiaomi device, but could not confirm that independently. The video does show that the phone uses Xiaomi’s MIUI skin, however.
However, in late January, Xiaomi spokesperson Donovan Sung posted a new video to Twitter, showing co-founder Bin Lin playing with a prototype foldable phone that seems to be the same device that Blass posted about earlier that month.
Check out this special video from #Xiaomi President and Co-founder Bin Lin, showing off a very special phone prototype… ?
— Donovan Sung (@donovansung) January 23, 2019
Both videos are interesting in that they first show a tablet form factor, but then the left and right sides of the device are folded behind the handset, with the middle part of the product now apparently working more like a smaller smartphone. In his Twitter post, Sung asked for suggestions for a name for this phone. Hopefully, we will see and learn more about this alleged flexible phone soon.
8. Oppo foldable phone
Oppo, another China-based smartphone company, has confirmed it will be joining the foldable phone race. Brian Shen, VP of Oppo, showed off what looks like a prototype of the company’s foldable phone on his Weibo account. Like the Huawei Mate X, it looks like Oppo’s foldable phone will be a dual-display device in smartphone mode. That includes a camera set up on the left side of the phone’s rear screen. So far, that’s all we really know at this point about this phone, but hopefully, we will learn more in the months to come.
9. LG foldable phone
LG had confirmed in October 2018 it plans to launch a foldable phone. Its LG Display division has been working on flexible screens for some time now. A more recent report from internet gadget reporter Evan Blass claimed LG planned to show off a foldable phone in early January 2019 in Las Vegas at the Consumer Electronics Show. However, the trade show has come and gone without such a phone shown by LG. In a recent press conference, the Korea Times quoted LG Electronics mobile and TV head Brian Kwon, who stated the company has “decided not to produce” a foldable smartphone for now. He did add that LG is “fully ready to respond depending on consumers’ reactions” to foldable smartphones.
Instead, LG has decided to try launching a phone that can support adding a second display that folds inside, rather than a true flexible display foldable phone product. It launched the LG V50 with an optional second screen accessory earlier this year, but that add-on was only available in South Korea. In September, it announced the LG G8X ThinQ that will include a second screen accessory out of the box. It will have the same size and shape as the main screen on the phone, which has a 6.4 inch Full HD+ (2,220 x 1,080) resolution display, and the second display even duplicates the main phone’s notch. A release date and price for the LG G8X has yet to be announced.
Which of these foldable phones with flexible displays are you looking forward to the most? Let us know in the comments!