Samsung and Apple are facing competition on the foldable phone front from Chinese Android manufacturer Huawei this year, according to a new report.
Citing sources familiar with Huawei’s plans, Korean news publication claims that Huawei is preparing to launch a true foldable phone this November.
The date is important because the report suggests that Huawei is launching the device this early with the specific goal of beating Samsung, other Android manufacturers and Apple to be the first company to create a fully flexible smartphone.
If that’s accurate then it could be bad news for a bigger player like Samsung, which typically prides itself on being first to deliver innovative technology. Also, the concept of a foldable phone - for those that take an interest - is largely aligned with Samsung because of that demo back in 2013. It would be quite the victory for Huawei to usurp Samsung’s crown.
But being first isn’t necessarily good news for Huawei. The product itself has to be worthwhile - or, rather, the user experience has to be intuitive. It can’t just be a standard smartphone that folds in half - breaking the user interface in the process. Everything has to work in harmony.
The report suggests that Samsung is “obsessed” with user experience, which is what could be delaying the Galaxy X. That’s a good thing. Technically accomplished hardware loses some of its shine if it doesn’t actually work.
This is the second report in the last three days that suggests the next foldable phone is imminent, with a smaller manufacturer leading the pack. Clearly the race is on to produce the next phase of smartphone technology. But people excited by the prospect of bending their handsets in half should temper their excitement for two reasons.
Firstly, we’ve been here before - many times. Concepts have been shown off down the years, flexible substrates have been showcased at trade shows and overzealous tech executives have bragged about incoming foldable phones. Only for nothing to materialise. I don’t doubt that a number of manufacturers are frantically working to make this a reality, but I’m not sure how close they are.
Secondly, there are questions about whether or not the display technology is actually ready yet - or even exists in complete form. A Qualcomm executive last month claimed that manufactures “haven’t really cracked the material science right now to produce electrodes that can repeatedly withstand bending and folding.” Solving that puzzle, and bringing a device to market, sounds like a tall order - especially within the next year.