MWC 2019: Foldable phones touted as the future as Samsung and Huawei unveil bendy handsets

Other long-promised technologies like 5G have been overshadowed by bendy handsets

Andrew Griffin
in Barcelona
@_andrew_griffin
Monday 25 February 2019 15:01
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Samsung Galaxy S10 showcases new foldable phone

The future is foldable, according to just about every major smartphone company.

Two of the world's biggest phone brands have unveiled bendy phones in recent days, proclaiming them a change comparable with the first ever smartphones and the future of handsets.

The bendy phones all function largely the same. At first glance, they look like a normal phone – but they are actually folded in the middle, and unfolding them makes the screen twice as big.

The handsets rely on a range of technologies that have only just become available, making 2019 the first time companies like Samsung have been able to make the phones available to the public. Chief among those innovations is flexible displays, which allow the handsets to bend in the middle and fold over.

As the technology has become more mainstream, so have the phones using it – and the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week has played host to the announcement of a variety of bendy handsets. Many of the companies didn't actually allow people to use the phones, and they are not widely available.

Foldable devices mark the "biggest change" ever in the smartphone industry, according to Huawei's mobile boss.

Huawei consumer business chief executive Richard Yu unveiled Huawei's Mate X foldable smartphone on Sunday, just days after Samsung revealed its Galaxy Fold flexible-screen device.

Both phones will be on display for the first time at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) technology show, which opens its doors to an expected crowd of more 100,000 people in Barcelona on Monday.

Mr Yu said foldable phones will be the future of the smartphone industry, and that the Chinese firm believes it can be the number one company in the industry "within two years - maybe even next year".

Huawei overtook Apple last year to become the second largest smartphone manufacturer in the world, behind Samsung.

The announcement of two major flexible-screen smartphones is expected to dominate the MWC tech trade show.

Speaking after unveiling Huawei's foldable phone concept, Mr Yu justified the higher price of the Mate X by saying he believed it was "definitely" superior to Samsung's new device.

He said Huawei hoped to be able to reduce the price of the Mate X over time and that it was his dream for everyone to have access to it.

Samsung also offered a more detailed glimpse of its forthcoming Galaxy Fold smartphone in action during MWC, following a limited preview of the device last week.

The Korean company showed off its first ever foldable phone during the launch of the Galaxy S10, but is yet to allow anyone other than its own executives hold the new device.

A new four-minute video reveals a clearer picture of how the Galaxy Fold looks, ahead of its UK release on May 3, featuring the hinge and how apps such as Google Maps switch from a large display when the device is unfolded, to a traditional smartphone set-up when closed.

It also demonstrates the handset's wireless charging capabilities, allowing users to power to other devices by laying it on the Galaxy Fold, as well as Samsung DeX, providing a more desktop-like experience when connected to a display using a USB-C cable.

The Galaxy Fold uses a traditional 4.6-inch smartphone screen, with a second, larger display housed inside its body, which opens up to form a 7.3-inch AMOLED Infinity Flex display.

Many standard smartphone features are included on the device, including a fingerprint scanner, but it also boasts six cameras in total - three on the rear, two on the inside and one on the front of the device.

UK pricing is yet to be officially announced for the Galaxy Fold, but in the rest of Europe it will cost 2,000 euro (£1,738).

Additional reporting by agencies

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