This time next week, a series of press conferences for Mobile World Congress in Barcelona kicks off with a presentation by Samsung on Wednesday, Feb 20. Pre-show press conferences will also be held by Huawei, Microsoft, Xiaomi, Oppo, Nokia and Sony. Which foldable phone announcements can we expect? And what do we know so far about these devices?
The biggest splash will most likely be made by Samsung, who will unveil their first commercially available foldable phone. The Galaxy F (or Galaxy Winner) got a sneak preview at the Samsung developer conference last november and in the commercial that Samsung aired globally last week. Although these seem to be two different devices.
The foldable phone was first demoed during the Samsung Developer Conference in San Francisco last November. It’s a book-type foldable device with a large outside screen and double-sized inner display. It was disguised by a black box to hide it’s actual dimensions and design (picture upper-left). Nevertheless it drew massive attention from the press and huge interest from the public. Samsung’s upcoming device, will switch seamlessly from the secondary display on the outside to the main inner display when opened, thanks to Android 9 support for foldables.
The Korean tech giant promised to unveil more specs and commercial availability during its upcoming Unpack event that will take place in San Francisco next week and will be streamed live across the world. Samsung is expected to ask a high price of the handset (somewhere between $1000 and $2000).
Xiaomi is one of the fastest growing handset manufacturers in the world. Last year they climbed to the 4th spot in global sales volume, with only Apple, Samsung and Huawei ranking higher. Shipments grew with 32% in 2018, according to research firm IDC. Xiaomi also impresses the world with their rate of innovation. A stunning foldable prototype was showed in a Weibo (Chinese social network) video. The Xiaomi device has 2 folding joints and a trimmed bezel.
However, Xiaomi is not expected to announce this triple folding device as a commercial product in Barcelona. Going from a prototype to a mass-produced phone is a process that even Xiaomi can’t do overnight and will take them at least 6 to 12 months. The Chinese company is however expected to show the prototype to industry insiders and journalists behind the scenes.
Also from China, but less well known, is the upcoming foldable phone by Oppo, who are expanding their business rapidly in Europe and the United States. They will show a prototype of a flexible phone design two days before Mobile World Congress. Productmanager Chuck Wang said they had no final models to show, but will outline a roadmap for foldable devices to the press and industry on Feb 23 during a presentation in a mid-town hotel.
Huawei is going through difficult times with Western countries criticising their dominance in 5G network technology and accusing them of spying. That doesn’t withhold them from working on innovative 5G products, such as their upcoming foldable smartphone. Huawei’s CEO Ken Hu confirmed the company is working on a ‘powerful device’ that’s able ‘to replace a PC’.
The Huawei foldable phone is rumoured to have impressive specs. It will have a 5-inch screen on the front and a 8-inch screen outside, with a very small bezel. Face-ID recognition is also said to be onboard. The phone is rumoured to be folding outwards and is likely manufactured by the Chinese company BOE. BOE showed prototypes of their technology at different trade shows in the past year.
The Huawei flex phones are expected to be marketed as the Mate F, the Mate Fold or the Mate Flex. Huawei will hold a press conference on Sunday, Feb. 24, one day before the official start of Mobile World Congress. More details are expected to be revealed then.
Motorola is expected to relaunch the classic RAZR phone as an expensive foldable screen device at Mobile World Congres. The company was recently awarded a patent that may reveal a first look at its RAZR remake with a folding display. The design was filed last month and appears to show a device with a flexible screen that bends inwards, alongside a second smaller, static display on the outside.
The design bears a resemblance to the iconic Motorola phone, with the chin on the bottom of the device. In the mid-nineties, it was the slimmest handset on the market. One half of the device was a keypad, while the other half was the display. The device, which popularised the flip-phone form factor, may make its comeback with a foldable display soon.
Display manufacturer BOE showed a prototype with foldable screen, at Display Week in the USA, that resembled the Motorola flip phone form factor.
Energizer is most known for their batteries and flashlights, but they also bring a line of branded Chinese OEM-phones to market. They’ve announced to show a foldable smartphone during MWC in Barcelona. No further details about the phone are known. The device is part of a series of 26 new models that Energizer will introduce.
Apple, Nokia, Sony & LG
Apple have never been present at Mobile World in Barcelona. The Cupertino company chooses it own publicity events to announce new products. The chance of seeing a foldable iPhone is therefore 0%. Other companies that have not announced plans or products are Nokia, Sony and LG. The Korean company however, has its own production facilities for flexible displays, which are used to manufacture their rollable TV’s and curved PC monitors. So if there’s going to be a surprise announcement at MWC, it may well come from LG.