While lots of new foldable phones were shown off or at least teased in 2019, very few were available to buy, so arguably ‘The Year of the Fold’ has been pushed back to 2020. Could this be the year the tech begins to catch on?
A few foldable phones were properly ‘released’ in 2019, including the Samsung Galaxy Fold and Motorola Razr, and these were arguably the two biggest names in foldable phones of the year. We’re expecting (and, honestly, hoping) many more devices will be shown off and made available in 2020, including the Huawei Mate X which was shown off in early 2019 but never released.
And we're off to a good start on that front, with the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip having already been launched.
That said, many companies’ foldable phones efforts are just concepts at the moment, either digital renders that haven’t been confirmed by the manufacturer, or early prototypes that we’ve seen (and sometimes tested) but that have no final release penned in yet.
Some more devices are just rumors right now, for example Apple’s foldable phone – while any news on a bending device from the company is a far cry from truth, some patents have leaked to imply there might be something on the cards.
So settle down, read on, and start saying goodbye to your old rigid handset, because the future is (maybe) flexible.
Update: The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip is here and numerous other foldable phones have now been rumored.
Confirmed foldable phones
These are all the foldable phones that are either out now, or should be releasing soon, since either they’re in your hands now, available to pre-order, or have seen official launch events.
Samsung Galaxy Z Flip
The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip - launched alongside the Samsung Galaxy S20 - is Samsung’s second foldable phone, and it’s a lot different to the first (the Samsung Galaxy Fold).
For one thing, rather than having a vertical fold, it has a horizontal one, and rather than folding down from tablet size to phone size, it goes from phone size to, well, smaller. It’s basically like a clamshell phone of old, but with a modern foldable screen.
The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip has a 6.7-inch 1080 x 2636 display with 425 pixels per inch. When folded shut the screen is hidden, but there’s a tiny 1.1-inch secondary display that can be seen, for notifications and the like.
It also has a Snapdragon 855 Plus chipset, 8GB of RAM, a 3,300mAh battery, and a dual-lens 12MP camera. That’s a combination that makes this high but not quite top-end in terms of specs, which might be disappointing given its $1,380 / £1,300 (around AU$2,050) RRP.
But that still sees it undercut most foldable phones – a feat it might not have achieved with better specs.
- Check out our hands-on Samsung Galaxy Z Flip review
Samsung Galaxy Fold
The Samsung Galaxy Fold dazzled us during the Samsung Galaxy S10 launch in February 2019, but the world had to wait until April before the South Korean manufacturer allowed the first members of the media (including TechRadar) to get hands-on the with the device.
Initial impressions were good. Sure it's big, bulky, heavy and extremely expensive, but it worked. The interface was slick, the multi-tasking excellent and the 7.3-inch folding screen is just plain cool.
However, just as excitement was building towards the Galaxy Fold's April 26 release in the US, a number of review units broke which led Samsung to delay the Galaxy Fold. That delay is now over, with the phone having landed in most regions.
The phone’s specs include both a 4.6-inch HD+ Super AMOLED screen on the front and a foldable 7.3-inch QHD+ Dynamic AMOLED display on the inside, essentially letting you use the device as both a phone and a tablet.
It supports three-app multi-tasking and allows you to seamlessly move from one screen to the other, with whatever content you were viewing switching between them as you open or close the larger display.
It has a 4,380mAh battery, 12GB of RAM, 512GB of storage and a high-end Snapdragon 855 chipset. Cameras? The Galaxy Fold has six: a 16MP lens and a pair of 12MP lenses on the back, a 10MP camera on the front, and a dual-lens 10MP and 8MP pairing on the inside, visible when using the large foldable screen.
However, it's not cheap, coming in at $1,980 / £1,800 (around AU$2,760).
- Read our full review of the Samsung Galaxy Fold
Huawei Mate X
As Samsung seemingly struggled with its early Galaxy Fold units, Huawei also pushed back the launch of the Huawei Mate X foldable phone, with a late-2019 release in China and no word in the rest of the world.
The Huawei Mate X is a slightly different take on the foldable phone, as it technically has one screen, but it can be folded down from an 8-inch display to a pair of smaller ones, with a 6.6-inch screen on the front and a 6.4-inch one on the back.
That means the displays are larger than the ones offered by the Galaxy Fold, and the small screens also have much less bezel than Samsung's take.
The overall aesthetic is striking, with the screen wrapping around the body of the handset, although we do worry about its durability as it's open to the elements and in danger of easily being damaged.
The Mate X also has a 4,500mAh battery with fast charging, a triple-lens camera, a high-end Kirin 990 or Kirin 980 chipset, 8GB of RAM, 512GB of storage, and it supports 5G.
It looks set to be even more expensive than the Galaxy Fold though, coming in at €2,299 (around $2,600 / £2,000 / AU$4,770).
As with Samsung, Huawei looks to be fully embracing the foldable future, as it has said that half of its flagship phones could be foldable in two years.
- Check out our hands-on Huawei Mate X review
Motorola rebooted its Razr brand of flip phones with the Motorola Razr, a folding ‘clamshell’ device that combined novel tech with a nostalgic form factor.
Unlike previous foldable phones, the phone folds down, to get smaller when you’re not using it, and it folds top-bottom instead of left-right. That’s why we call it a ‘clamshell’, and its design certainly is reminiscent of the Motorola Razr V3.
It’s certainly not as ‘premium’ a device as Samsung or Huawei’s foldables, with a mid-range Snapdragon 710 chipset, 5MP front-facing camera, plastic OLED screen (which could pick up scratches over time), single rear 16MP camera (although there’s a Time-of-Flight sensor too) and 2,510mAh battery.
It’s also pretty pricey for those specs, costing $1,500 (roughly £1,350, AU$2,000), at least three or four times the price of a non-foldable phone with the same specs. But then again, you’re buying the form factor, not the specs.
- Check out our hands-on Motorola Razr review
Microsoft Surface Duo
We've been waiting for a Surface Phone from Microsoft for years, and then it went and announced the Surface Duo, a Surface phone that folds.
Well, we're going to have to qualify a lot of that sentence. It's a Surface device, but Microsoft has made sure not to call it a phone. It's used vague language, but we know the device runs on an Android operating system, can make calls, and certainly looks like a phone.
Secondly, calling the Microsoft Surface Duo a foldable device fails to convey the true nature of it – it's a dual-screen device that can flip up to 360 degrees, with different or the same apps running at the same time. So it literally folds in half (or closes), but it's not got a screen that moves, rather it just looks like it does.
Microsoft has confirmed the Surface Duo will be available at the end of 2020, which is certainly a long way off when you consider the device launched in October 2019, but that's the price of perfection, we suppose.
Potentially the device will change a lot in the year between its launch and release, so when it comes out it may no longer have the Snapdragon 855 processor, dual 5.6-inch displays, or cameras, but those were all present in the device we saw.
Rumored foldable phones
These are all the foldable phones that we’re expecting to come along, either because of leaks and rumors or due to high-profile people in the companies suggesting such a device could come soon.
Samsung Galaxy Fold 2
We’ve heard Samsung is getting ready to launch a true successor to its Galaxy Fold device – we’re tentatively calling it the Fold 2.
Most early rumors for this ended up being about the Galaxy Z Flip, so we don't know much, but we have heard a few things.
The design meanwhile will probably be similar to the original Galaxy Fold, but one old leak suggests it might fold outwards, so the main screen is always visible.
- Check out everything we know about the Samsung Galaxy Fold 2
The latest news on a foldable LG phone comes from Kyle Yoon, senior product manager for LG Mobile, who, during a briefing, said:
“When it comes to foldable, [the day will come] when we’ll all have a foldable device. That’s only if the Play Store has [apps in] a native resolution in those ratios, if the price of foldables will come down - we want to deliver a device more people can use that’s affordable and [offers] more content with 5G. We’re focused on that first but foldables… yes, we will have those devices.”
Prior to that, we'd heard rumors that LG has a foldable phone in the works, and that’s on top of the company having mentioned "smartphones featuring different form factors" in a recent set of financial results, and having patented a foldable phone concept.
The company has also made a foldable TV already, so it seemingly has the expertise. In short then, while nothing is yet confirmed it seems like the question of a foldable LG phone is 'when' not 'if'. Though the company doesn't seem in any hurry to launch one.
In the meantime, it has launched the LG DualScreen, which is a device that can clip on to the LG G8X ThinQ or LG V50 ThinQ to add a second screen. This is far from a true foldable phone, but it's better than nothing.
TCL might not be a name you'd expect to be among the first to launch a foldable phone and, well, you'd be right, because it's probably not going to sell a foldable handset under any of its brands (which include BlackBerry and Alcatel) until later in 2020.
But the company has shown off a foldable concept device at MWC. This has a 7.2-inch 2048 x 1536 AMOLED display and four rear cameras, but we're not convinced the final foldable will have those specs, as one of the key features appears to be a relatively affordable price.
The company didn't get into specifics, but for it to substantially undercut the likes of the Galaxy Fold and Mate X, we'd expect worse specs than that.
While not likely to arrive as imminently as some on this list, Apple could well have a foldable phone of its own in the works.
Rumors of one first emerged in late 2017, with the claim that it would launch in 2020. We’ve also seen Apple patents for a folding screen more than once, so Apple is clearly at least exploring the idea.
If folding phones prove practical then we’d expect Apple will get involved eventually, but the company usually waits for tech to be polished rather than aiming to be first, so we might not see one for a while.
As with Apple, Sony also looks to be working on – or at least toying with – a foldable phone.
Evidence for this comes from a Sony patent, detailing both foldable and rollable smartphones. Of course, patents don’t always become products, but with much of the rest of the industry looking in this direction it would be no surprise if Sony is too.
However, we wouldn't expect one imminently, as we haven't heard much about it yet, and the company seems quite focused on conventional phones at the moment.
Royole FlexPai and FlexPai 2
The first foldable phone to be released was actually the Royole FlexPai.
Currently you can only buy it in China (unless you’re happy with a developer version), and it’s not cheap at $1,300 (around £1,000 / AU$1,825).
You might want to hold off on that import too, as in our hands-on review we found that it was both very slow and had a very slow camera. In short, it seems like little more than a proof-of-concept.
The company might improve things for round two though, as it has claimed that it will soon announce a “brand-new foldable phone featuring flagship performance and Royole’s next generation flexible technologies.”
Don't get too excited just yet though, as this is little more than a concept device for now.
As while Lin Bin, the co-founder of Xiaomi, has posted on social media that the "Xiaomi double folding mobile phone is coming," he also said "if you like it, we will consider making a mass production machine in the future."
This might not be the only foldable from Xiaomi though, as the company has also patented a device that looks more like the Galaxy Z Flip or Motorola Razr.
These are likely a long way off being finished products, but show for example a screen that would fold down on itself when not in use, and a phone with three folds, which allows the screens to stack on top of each other when folded.
Mario Queiroz, Google’s head of Pixel development, told CNET, "We’re definitely prototyping the technology. We’ve been doing it for a long time. I don’t think there’s a clear use case yet."
HMD Global - the company behind current Nokia phones - is also rumored to be working on a foldable phone. So far nothing is known about it, but the source claims it's likely to land either in late 2020 or 2021. We'd take this with a pinch of salt, but if true we'll likely hear more about it later this year.
Oppo has shown off a foldable concept device that looks a lot like the Huawei Mate X, as you can see in the image above.
However, we don't know anything about the specs yet and you probably won't be able to buy this any time soon if at all, as the company has said it will wait and see whether consumers take to foldable phones before mass producing one.
It did seem to have a 3.5mm headphone jack and pop-up camera, which is rather surprising given that mechanical parts pose a big potential for breaking, and a folding phone is delicate enough anyway, without the extra motion.
ZTE Nubia Alpha
ZTE isn’t being left out of the folding action either, as the firm has launched the Nubia Alpha, a phone with a 4-inch foldable screen that you can wrap around your wrist.
The phone is available in many areas, and costs $449 (roughly £340, AU$640). For some reason Nubia shows its price in dollars even when you're not in the UK.
Additionally, ZTE has patented another foldable device, this time with a more conventional clamshell design, so if you don't want to wear your phone then ZTE may have a more suitable option for you sooner or later.
- Read our full Nubia Alpha review
Energizer Power Max 8100S
Energizer is not a company we'd have expected to be among the first to launch a foldable phone, but it is, at least in prototype form.
Shown off behind glass at MWC 2019, the Energizer Power Max 8100S has a smartphone-sized screen when folded and a tablet-sized one when unfolded.
Folds aside, the highlight of this phone is likely its 10,000mAh battery, but it also has a 48MP main camera, a 12MP secondary lens and a 24MP selfie camera, plus a Snapdragon 855 chipset and 8GB of RAM. However, it's not currently clear if or when you'll be able to buy it.
Image credit: 女王议科技
Image credit: 女王议科技
Image credit: 女王议科技
Vivo has launched its own sub-brand, iQOO, in order to hit the foldable phone market. It's early days for the device, with the only hint of its existence being several renders leaked online, but that's a lot more than some other foldables.
One edge the iQOO foldable phone has, if the leak is to believed, is that it will launch at around CNY7,000, or roughly $1,000, £800, AU$1,450. If this is correct - which is a big if, of course - it will be a lot cheaper than the prices of most other similar devices.
- There are lots of 5G phones arriving too