By Tracey Dowdy
The latest trend in phones isn’t bigger screen sizes or even better cameras – it’s foldable phones. Everyone from industry giant Samsung to the relatively unknown startup Royole is getting in on the foldable phone game. Google has already committed to Android support for foldable devices, and while as yet there’s no word from other platforms, it’s unlikely they’ll be the only ones to step up.
The first to be released is the Royole Flexpai, developed by a startup based in Fremont, California was released last Fall. The Flexpai features a 7.8-inch AMOLED (active-matrix organic light-emitting diode) plastic screen and is priced at a whopping $1,318 for the 6GB of RAM and 128GB options. It’s designed to close like a book with the screen on the outside, runs on Water, an OS that’s layered on Google Android 9.0. Through this native support, apps will automatically adjust and rearrange themselves based on which display is being used – the smaller, folded display or the wide open full screen.
Several other tech companies have announced they have a foldable phone in the works, including Samsung whose entry, rumored to be called the Galaxy X or Galaxy F (as in Flex or Fold) is expected to hit the market in March. In their announcement about its foldable AMOLED panel called the “Infinity Flex,” Samsung said, “Users now have the best of both worlds: a compact smartphone that unfolds to reveal a larger immersive display for multitasking and viewing content. The app experience seamlessly transitions from the smaller display to the larger display as the device unfolds. Also, users can browse, watch, connect and multitask without losing a beat, simultaneously using three active apps on the larger display.” The phone will have a 4.5-inch screen that opens up to a 7.3-inch screen.
Chinese tech giant Huawei has confirmed that its first 5G phone, due out some time at the end of June, will 2019, will also feature a foldable screen. Early indications are that it will be beautiful, sleek, and cutting edge; however, it’s unlikely to be available in American markets because of security concerns. Last May, the Pentagon reportedly banned the sale of Huawei, ZTE phones on US military bases though it’s unlikely to have made a significant impact on their market since Huawei devices are still available in more than 170 countries around the world.
Another Chinese tech company, Xiaomi, announced their foldable phone on Weibo – China’s version of Twitter. What sets the Dual Flex or Mix Flex (Xiaomi is allowing consumers to vote on the as-yet-undecided name) phone apart from the rest is that the phone folds into thirds instead of in half, with both sides folding down.
True to form, Apple has maintained radio silence on any plans to release a foldable phone, though they filed patents in 2014, 2016, and 2017 for a phone with a flexible display. Others like Motorola, LG, and Lenovo are all rumored to have foldable phones in the works, though there’s no indication they’ll release their versions any time soon.
Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.