In Depth

The foldable smartphones coming in 2019: Samsung Galaxy Fold, Royole FlexPai and more

Flexible handsets get off to a rocky start as two firms postpone the launch of their cutting-edge mobiles

Some of the world’s largest tech companies are looking to shake up the smartphone world in 2019, just when critics were accusing the market of stagnation.

Handsets with foldable displays were all the rage earlier this year, with gadget makers keen to show that the technology is no longer purely science-fiction. 

However, the technology came under fire in April after a number of critics, who were testing the new Samsung Galaxy Fold, reported major display failures on their review handsets. 

The fiasco prompted Samsung to postpone the phone’s launch to September - the same month as the delayed Huawei Mate X.

While we wait for the new handsets to arrive, here are all the foldable phones that are due to launch in 2019:

Huawei Mate X

The Samsung Galaxy Fold may have made headlines when it first appeared earlier this year, but Huawei’s Mate X (pictured top) looks to have the upper hand.

The Mate X, which arrived just a week after Samsung’s phone, has a single foldable panel split into three displays: a 6.38in screen at the back, a 6.6in version at the front and – when unfolded – an 8in tablet-style display.

The phone also has a trio of cameras on the back but Huawei hasn’t yet announced the specs for the three lenses.  

Fans will need to start saving if they want to get their hands on one, though, as it’ll have a price tag of £1,996.

Huawei was on course to launch the Mate X in June, but has since pushed back the phone’s release to September in a bid to dodge the issues that plagued review models of the Samsung Galaxy Fold.

Oppo

Shortly after Huawei took the wraps off its sleek Mate X, Chinese smartphone maker Oppo announced its own foldable phone – and it bears a striking resemblance to its rival. 

Much like the Mate X, Oppo’s flexible phone sports a bendable screen that can be split into three displays. Users can access the tablet-style display when the device is unfurled, which then splits into two smaller screens – one at the front and the other at the back – when the phone is folded in half. 

According to TechRadar, Oppo’s handset has a slightly larger screen in tablet mode compared to the Mate X, though the gadget maker has yet to announce the measurements or specs of the handset. 

“There’s just no information regarding the internals of the Oppo foldable phone and it looks like it may be a while before we hear anything official from the company,” the tech site says.

Royole FlexPai

While many consider the Samsung Galaxy Fold to be the first flexible phone announced in 2019, those honours actually go to Chinese firm Royole. 

Appearing at CES in early January, the Royole FlexPai is a handset that can be folded in half. Like its competitors, the screen can be used in tablet mode when the device is unravelled, while folding it in half makes it a little easier to carry. 

Judging by images taken at the tech conference, the FlexPai doesn’t appear to be quite as well put together as the likes of the Mate X and Galaxy Fold. The hinge, for instance, has an “ugly rubbery” seal to help the device bend in half, says Trusted Reviews. This may improve the phone’s flexibility, but Samsung and Huawei have managed to avoid the material on their handsets. 

“Due to the nature of the hinge it doesn’t fold flat, instead taking on a wedge shape,” the tech site says. “Trying to fit it into your pocket is hilariously difficult and even using it as a phone is tough.”

The FlexPai is expected to launch only in China, but the phone may appear in foreign markets if there’s sufficient demand.

Samsung Galaxy Fold
Samsung Galaxy Fold

Samsung

Samsung became the second company to present a foldable smartphone in 2019 when it unveiled its $2,000 (£1,600) Galaxy Fold alongside the iPhone XS-rivalling S10 range in March. 

Sporting the company’s new “Infinity Flex” AMOLED screen, the Galaxy Fold can be used as a tablet-style device when unfurled or folded in half so that users can easily slip the device into their pocket. When unfolded, the tablet screen measures in at 7.3in, which shrinks to 4.6in when users close the display. 

The South Korean tech giant has developed a “sophisticated hinge with multiple interlocking gears” that runs along the centre of display, the Daily Express says, allowing the phone to “feel solid” when it’s in tablet mode. 

After missing its initial April release due to a series of major screen failures, the Galaxy Fold is now expected to go on sale in September for £1,800. 

Xiaomi 

Xiaomi arguably has one of the more interesting foldable phones in the works, as it doesn’t conform to the same design cues as its rivals. 

Previewed by company chief executive Lin Bin on Weibo, a Chinese social media app, Xiaomi’s take on a foldable phone ditches the single-hinge mechanism seen on other handsets in favour of a twin-hinge layout. This means the phone’s display can be folded at either side of the mobile, while other flexible handsets fold directly down the centre.

It’s not known whether there are any benefits to having a dual-hinge screen over one with a single pivot, but Xiaomi’s phone arguably has a slicker design than its competitors. 

Bin says the company has already started handing out prototype phones to its staff, though a release date has yet to be confirmed.

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