Folding phone screens are the next big thing…maybe. They’re certainly thick on the ground at Mobile World Congress, the yearly phone extravaganza in Barcelona. We’re rounding up all of the designs with folding screens we’ve seen so far.
Note that all of the folding screen designs, even the ones currently destined for a full release, were shown in strictly hands-off capacity, either behind glass or only accessible to a presenter. How these phones will handle in the real world is, at least for the moment, very much in the air.
Samsung Galaxy Fold
This is the big one, introduced at a pre-MWC press event last week. Samsung’s design actually uses two screens: a smaller 4.6-inch one on the front of the device and a 7.3-inch screen with a polymer cover that unfolds from the inside, book-style. The camera setup is disjointed: one on the “front,” two on the inside in a notch where the larger screen sits, and three on the back. The Galaxy Fold will be available in April with a price of $1980 to start, and there’s a 5G variant in the works as well.
Huawei Mate X
This design from Chinese giant Huawei takes more or less the opposite approach from Samsung, using a single screen that wraps around the front and back of the folding body. That one is 8 inches when open, with a relatively small 2480×2000 resolution. When folded, its primary screen is 6.6 inches, while the “rear” screen is 6.4. The phone looks more elegant, and the camera setup makes more sense with the form factor: three sensors hang out in the thick “lip” where the fold rests in its smaller configuration. This allows all three cameras to be either rear-facing or front-facing “selfie” cams, depending on how you’re holding it.
Huawei says that the phone packs a 5G radio, its own Kirin 980 processor design, and a combined 4500 mAh battery. It will cost an astounding €2300 ($2600 USD, not that it’s likely to come to the US at all) when it launches in mid-2019.
Another competitor from a big Chinese brand, this Oppo design looks a lot like Huawei’s Mate X but hasn’t been confirmed for a retail release at the moment. The hardware is only being shown on Weibo by an Oppo executive. It uses the same exterior folding screen with a single panel, a large grip that the phone folds into when closed, and holds the camera and external ports. Oppo says it may develop the design into a full release if it sees enough demand from the market.
TCL, the current owners and marketers of the Blackberry brand, is also working on folding designs. These concepts have no clear path to retail release—they’re the earliest in development of the bunch. But they’re worth checking out. One of them uses the interior, book-style fold of the Galaxy Fold, essentially trying to shrink a tablet into a phone size. Another has the larger interior screen plus a small external screen.
The other design uses the fold to crunch a conventional smartphone-style device into a clamshell, folding over a vertical screen into something that looks like the hinged “dumb” phone designs of the late 90s and 2000s. Another concept shown to the press is a fold that goes in a circular motion, allowing a phone to be worn like a “slap” bracelet when not in use. It’s worth noting that TCL is a huge OEM seller of screen technology, so these designs may show up connected to other brands.
LG V50 ThinkQ
Okay, this one technically isn’t a folding screen, but it’s pretty clear that LG wants you to think of its V50 design as capable of competing with the new ultra-expensive flagships from Samsung and Huawei. The V50 ThinQ 5G uses a conventional smartphone design with an add-on case that packs a second, 6.2-inch screen connected via POGO plugs. The secondary screen can be used to run apps side-by-side, or in horizontal mode for a full-screen keyboard or game controller. It’s similar to the add-on screen for the ASUS ROG Phone unveiled last year. The V50 ThinkQ is indeed coming to market later in 2019 but doesn’t have a precise date or price (for the phone or its second-screen add-on) just yet.