Over a decade ago, the world started shelving their cellphones – with their static screens and limited applications – to embrace smartphones, which offered large touchscreens to watch movies, play music, and even browse the web.
We have loved and lived with these rectangular designs for years. But several months ago, we got a glimpse of something new: potentially the next evolution of the smartphone.
Imagine holding your phone as it is right now, but opening it up like a book, and seeing a new display inside that was double the size of your outside screen. That’s the dream of foldable phones, to be both a phone and tablet in one form factor. Unlike smartphones, which have singular, fixed displays, foldable phones promise more screen real estate when you need it.
When a handful of the biggest smartphone makers in the world announced their first foldable phones in February, it looked like the world was ready to welcome a new form factor once again. But it only took a few months and a bunch of upset tech reviewers to postpone that dream for the foreseeable future.
In late February, a handful of smartphone makers announced their plans to release foldable smartphones in 2019.
Samsung surprised everyone expecting to see the new Galaxy S10 phones at its Unpacked 2019 event by debuting its first-ever foldable smartphone at the very beginning of the show.
Samsung’s Galaxy Fold, with its two screens and five cameras, would be about twice the price of most premium smartphones — about as expensive as a high-end laptop.
Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the Galaxy Fold was that it didn’t have some far-off release date. Samsung said the Galaxy Fold would be ready on April 26.
Samsung’s surprising announcement sparked a period of hype around foldable phones.
The same weekend Samsung announced the Galaxy Fold, Huawei — the second-largest smartphone maker in the world, next to Samsung — unveiled its own foldable phone at Mobile World Congress, called the Mate X.
Unlike Samsung, Huawei refused to offer a specific release date beyond “later this year”. Some reports said Huawei was hoping to have the Mate X ready by June.
Also that same weekend, Oppo — the third-most popular smartphone maker in China — unveiled its own foldable phone concept.
Oppo’s foldable phone didn’t come with a price or release date, but it created the impression that more companies were ready to start building radically new smartphone designs.
The foldable phone concepts kept coming in March, when Xiaomi — the fifth-most popular smartphone maker in China — posted a video to Twitter showing off a concept for a foldable phone, which generated a lot of buzz online.
You can watch Xiaomi’s 10-second promo for its foldable phone below.