The folding smartphone market is heating up with Xiaomi’s tease of a double-fold device and plans in the works from several major manufacturers
Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi has shown off a tablet whose screen folds in two places to reduce the device’s size and convert it into a smartphone.
Lin said a device similar to the prototype shown in the video would eventually make its way to consumers, but didn’t indicate when that might happen. He asked for users to help name the folding device.
China’s Royole brought out the industry’s first folding smartphone in October of last year, the FlexPai, which is currently being sold as a developer model, and which one analyst said feels like a “clunky prototype”.
Samsung has also announced flexible display technology and has said it plans to announce more details about the folding Galaxy X device at a press event on 20 February, ahead of this year’s Mobile World Congress event.
The two hinges of the prototype device demonstrated by Xiaomi’s Lin allow it to collapse down to a smaller size than Royole’s FlexPai, although industry observers have noted that folding such a device will by definition double its thickness.
Analysts also noted that adding a second hinge also gives the device a second possible point of failure.
But users have shown strong interest in folding devices, including two that were on display at CES earlier this month: Royole’s prototype and a television from LG with a flexible display that rolls up into a base that’s about one-third the height of the screen.
Royole was the only company to have a folding smartphone on display at the event, although Samsung also reportedly showed its flexible display efforts to analysts behind closed doors.
The FlexPai still feels like a “Stone Age” initial concept, said analyst Ben Wood of UK-based consultancy CCS Insight, but he noted that users showed a strong interest in the device and predicted flexible displays would become more common.
“It feels like we’re currently in the Stone Age when it comes to products with flexible screens,” Wood said in a research note. “At CES 2019 we have seen the first very tentative steps toward implementation of a technology that may seem to be a solution looking for a problem now, but is likely to become a pillar of designs of consumer electronic devices in the future.”
Mobile World Congress, which begins on 25 February in Barcelona, is likely to showcase more folding-screen devices, Wood said.
Such gadgets may go some way toward relieving what some called the repetitive sameness of most companies’ smartphone efforts at last year’s MWC.