For years, there were rumors that flexible phones — i.e., smartphones with screens that fold in half — were right around the corner. They proved to be well-founded: In October, ZTE unveiled the Axon M, an Android-based smartphone with two 5.2-inch Full HD screens, three separate display modes, and a hinge that unfurls the two screens into a single 6.75-inch screen. Not to be outdone by ZTE, manufacturers including Samsung, Oppo, and Huawei are reportedly working on foldable phones of their own.
Huawei, the world’s third-largest smartphone manufacturer, is said to be putting the finishing touches on a dual-screen foldable smartphone. We don’t know much about it yet, but Huawei CEO Richard Yu expects an announcement by the end of 2018.
Oppo, on the other hand, has applied for patents having to do with the manufacture of foldable screens, one of which describes a novel mechanism with a secondary “upper” screen that folds over a non-folding screen.
Finally, Digitimes reports that Samsung recently applied for a foldable smartphone patent in the US and that one of its chief rivals, LG’s eponymous LG Display division, is developing foldable screen prototypes. LG Display is said to be working with Apple, with the goal of commercializing foldable displays before 2020.
As exciting as the prospect of foldable smartphones might be, though, it’s important to take reports like these with a grain of salt. We’re talking about long-term research projects, and patent filings don’t always precede products. But if there are two companies that could make flexible phones a reality, they’d be Samsung and LG — the report notes that both have years of research in the field and huge supply chains.
In a few years’ time, a foldable Galaxy might not be out of the question.