Phones with true flexible and foldable displays are finally a reality. 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. However, both foldable phones encountered release delays.
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. 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 particles 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 now available for sale in the US. It’s available through AT&T.
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, it’s possible that the Mate X may not be able to be launched with Google’s Android OS as originally planned.
Can we expect more delays from other would-be competitors in this segment? Hard to say. 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. Now, the unconfirmed rumors claim that foldable phone might not be announced until late 2019 at the earliest.
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
- TCL foldable phone (upcoming)
- 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. After months of delays (see above) the Galaxy Fold is now available for sale in the US and other parts of the world.
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 acts as a tablet thanks to the 7.3-inch QXGA+ Dynamic AMOLED Infinity Flex display.
The Samsung Galaxy Fold also has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor, 12GB of RAM and 512GB of storage inside, along with two batteries totaling 4,380mAh. It has six cameras: three on the back, one on the front, and two on the inside.
AT&T is currently the only U.S. carrier that is selling 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. The no-contract price is $1979.99, or it’s available on a payment plan for $66 a month for 30 months.
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 came from the China-based Royole. It 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. Motorola Razr
After months of rumors and leaks, Motorola finally announced its foldable smartphone with a familiar name and design. The Motorola Razr looks much like the classic Razr V3 mobile flip phone that was first released in 2004. Indeed, the new Razr not only looks like that classic flip phone, but it’s about as thin as the original at 14mm. However, when it unfolds from its retro clamshell body, it exposes a large 6.2-inch 21:9 display. When folded, you can still use a square 2.7-inch display on the outside to check notifications, control media and more. You can even take selfies while using the small display since the 16MP rear camera turns into a front-facing camera when the phone is folded.
The specs on the new Motorola Razr foldable phone are not what you would find on most flagship phones. It has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 710 chip inside, along with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. There’s also a small 2,510mAh battery and, for some reason, it will ship with Android 9 Pie out of the box, instead of Android 10. Finally, the price is going to be high at $1,499. While that’s not as expensive as the Galaxy Fold or the Huawei Mate X, it’s still pretty pricing considering the lower end hardware inside the Razr.
The new Motorola Razr will be exclusive, at least for the moment, to Verizon Wireless in the US. Pre-sales begin December 26, and the Razr will begin shipping in early January 2020.
4. 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. Huawei finally started taking preorders for the foldable phone in October, but only in China. It will actually launch November 15 in that country for 16,999 Chinese yuan (~$2,406).
Huawei has already announced plans to release an updated version of the Mate X in March 2020. It will be called the Mate Xs and will use Huawei’s faster Kirin 990 chipset instead of the older Kirin 980. No further details about the Huawei Mate Xs have been revealed.
5. 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.
6. 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.
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 Xiaomi foldable smartphone came from gadget leaker Evan Blass (@evleaks). He posted a video on his Twitter feed in January that showed a phone with a flexible display. He stated the video is allegedly of a Xiaomi device. However, he could not confirm that independently. The video does show that the phone uses Xiaomi’s MIUI skin, however.
In late January, Xiaomi spokesperson Donovan Sung posted a new video to Twitter. It showed company co-founder Bin Lin playing with a prototype foldable phone. It seemed 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 Later, the left and right sides of the device are folded behind the handset. The middle part of the product works 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. Hopefully, we will learn more in the months to come.
9. LG foldable phone
The LG Display division has been working on flexible screens for some time now. A report from internet gadget reporter Evan Blass claimed LG planned to show off a foldable phone in early January 2019 at CES. However, the trade show has come and gone without such a phone. Later in 2019, 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.
Instead, LG has decided to try launching a phone that can support adding a second display that folds inside. It launched the LG V50 with an optional second screen accessory earlier this year. However, the 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. It will have a 6.4 inch Full HD+ (2,220 x 1,080) resolution display. 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!