Treating the phone like a piece of paper is no more a dream. Now, roll it up or squish it in a backpack. Phones with true flexible and foldable display are on their way. Various companies are working on foldable phones – Samsung, LG, Huawei, Oppo, Intel and Royale to protect their respective technologies in the future or extract future royalty payments from successful competitors.
The China-based Royole surprised the whole industry by announcing the release of the Royole FlexPai – The first true foldable phone, and several patents assigned to them under flexible electronics or display. Intel has filed a foldable design patent application titled “Electronic Device with Foldable Display Panels” that bears semblance with Microsoft’s Andromeda device which has been on hold. Apple too is exploring new ways to make the display on iPhones even larger. A patent filed by Apple shows a clamshell device that looks similar to rumoured updated Moto Razr, Motorola upcoming foldable smartphone.
Samsung has mastered the art of curved, flexible, foldable displays and revealed the Galaxy Fold which is expected to cost around $2,000. South Korean company LG joined the race and officially confirmed that a foldable phone is in development. LG too has patented several smartphone designs with flexible displays. Huawei, also been open about making a folding phone and launched Huawei Mate X which supports 5G too. It folds in a similar way to the Flexpai by Royole.
USPTO has granted 161 patents to Samsung which covers folding and transparent display in a phone. Both Samsung and Apple are working on devices that will use transparent displays in smartphones and support augmented reality. Samsung is a major patent generator and larger than Apple on that front. Apple has filed a patent showing folding phones, designs are not only restricted to iPhone and could be applied to iPad, MacBook or Apple Watch. Apple seems to join the market of foldable displays in 2020.
With the market gearing up for an onslaught of foldable smartphones, Samsung seems to step ahead and started working on two variants of foldable phones besides Galaxy Fold. Their designs will be different and will be folding outwards. It is expected to be thinner than Galaxy Fold. Similarities with this design can be drawn with Huawei’s MateX, which employs a similar mechanism.
Its quite evident that competitors are catching up and making lavish foldable smartphones. Samsung has the major dominance and keeps on experimenting with the displays. But it would be quite interesting to see which company will succeed in wooing their customers better with their designs.