The Future is…Foldable!

T2BN Smartphone Editor : 

2019 has just begun and there’s exciting news everywhere on the latest new phones. But if we’re being honest, nothing has caught our giddy-kid-in-a-candystore attention like the CES unveiling of the first real, working model of the foldable phone.

When American-based Chinese company Royole rolled out the FlexiPai, there was a rush of excitement we haven’t seen probably since Jobs’s first iPhone announcement way back in 2007. Then, as now, the look and feel of the device goes beyond just cutting edge into downright…cool.

But coming fast on the heels of the first fold-out-roll-out are the heavy hitters – Samsung, Huawei and Apple. As expected with new technology like this, each manufacturer has a very different concept of which version of ‘foldable’ they believe will ultimately win our hearts…and our wallets!

The Now – Royole FlexiPai

Just cannot wait to get your hands on a foldable? As of now, the FlexiPai is the only phone you can order and physically have in your hand (or rather in 4-8 weeks as their website states due to “overwhelming response”). The FlexiPai has a whopping 7.8 inch screen unfolded. When folded it offers 2 smartphone screens with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage (base model). Royole says it has tested the hardiness of their screen by bending it over 200,000 times and that the flexible nature of the screen makes it, in their words “virtually unbreakable”. Some cons for us on this design? First, the book fold design never fully folds flat, making one-hand holding slightly awkward. Second, in folded “mode” the large screen is always exposed, which makes exposure to dust, scratching and smudging much more likely.  Still, if you’re ready for the future now, you’d better also be ready to pay for it. Current starting price of the FlexPai is $1318 for the 128GB  and $1469 for the 256GB.

The Soon – Samsung Galaxy Fold & Huawei Mate X

We give Royole major kudos for going down in the history books as the first official company offering foldables. But  these now-on-pre-order models are the ones you will be seeing most in people’s pockets. Heavy hitters Samsung and Huawei came in quickly with their own models. Both unfold into tablets and offer the must-have 5G option. Their designs however, differ as greatly from the FlexPai as they do from each other. In fact the only commonality between these models is they all come with eye-watering price tags.

Samsung’s Galaxy Fold is set up a bit more like a book, with the largest screen at 7.3″ inside with a smaller 6.4″ screen on the front and no screen on the back. It has a whopping six cameras (that’s three on the back, two on the inside and one on the ‘cover’), comes with Snapdragon 855 processor, 12GB RAM and 512GB storage. And while that $1980 price tag isn’t pulling any punches, Samsung did offer a solid in the form of allowing the choice of 4G or 5G configuration, so you aren’t locked into the higher priced 5G access cost. Cons for us on this model? At 7.3″ the Galaxy Fold is the smallest of the three current models and with all the focus lately on going notchless it seems a bit of a throw-back that the Fold has a big old eyebrow on its large screen. Still, compared to the FlexPai, the Galaxy Fold comes together fully and easily, slipping into your pocket with ease and confidence.

When the Huawei Mate X was unveiled at MWC 2019 in Barcelona, many pronounced it the current winner. Similar to Royole’s FlexPai, the Mate X has a screen that hugs the frame. Unlike the FlexPai though, the Mate X has a patented hinge set up that allows it to fold completely flat (even flatter than the Galaxy Fold). When folded, the Mate X offers itself as two separate screens (6.6″ front screen and 6.38″ back screen) and when unfolded becomes a single, massive 8″ display. The Mate X has a notch free screen and comes with four cameras (three on screen, one rear). While we agree the Mate X looks a home run, it does have a few cons in our book, one of them a doozy. First, it only comes in 5G configuration, second it has the largest price tag of all three – $2600 for 8GB RAM and 512GB storage (less RAM than the Galaxy Fold) but the biggest drawback has nothing to do with the phone itself. Simply put, due to recent tensions between the US Government and Huawei it is very doubtful that the Mate X will be available for sale in the US. But if you believe the hype and really want the best out there, the Huawei Mate X seems to be the clear home run…so far. You’ll just have to stamp your passport to get it.

The Future – Apple’s WrapAround iPhone

The picture you see above is a rendering of a patent submitted by Apple in 2013 to the USPO. As you can see from the spec, the screen is designed as a full, apparently seamless, wrap-around.  Missing is any physical home button and phone jack (something Apple has already implemented). We are all left to wonder exactly how the model unfolds, as that portion of the design is not included in the specs. Speculation has it that it will actually fold in from the left and right, in a true wrap-around fashion. No firm numbers have surfaced regarding size, storage, memory, etc. Certainly there appears to be at least three cameras but beyond that, we will just have to wait and see. One last tease comes from Mesut Designs – the below picture is a rendering they created based solely on the patent rendering (as seen above). One thing is certain, Apple may be late to the foldable phone party, but if history is any judge, it will become the one to follow…

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