This fall, smartphones with large foldable displays finally made the leap from prototype to usable product in the U.S., with the launch of the Samsung Galaxy Fold in September and the announcement this week of the new Motorola Razr. And while this new type of smartphone will set people back with prices well over $1,000—limiting their appeal to the choosiest of tech adopters, for the time being—there’s something novel about having a smartphone with a tablet-like screen that can easily slip into a pocket without a second thought.
Here’s a look at six foldable phones already available or on the horizon. They may make you appreciate your tried-and-true smartphone even more—or convince you that the future of the phone hinges on a new form factor.
Huawei Mate X
Huawei’s Mate X, which launched in China on Friday, is the most expensive foldable phone so far, starting at 16,999 yuan in China, or roughly $2,400. Those who pony up, however, will find the Mate X offers a lot of bells and whistles.
Unfolded, the device acts as an 8-inch tablet. Fold the device, and you have two screens: a front-facing 6.6-inch OLED screen, complemented by a 6.4-inch OLED display on back. The Mate X also uses a Kirin 980 processor, with eight computing cores, wed to 8 gigabytes of RAM, and a trio of Leica camera lenses on the back with 40-megapixel wide angle lens, a 16-megapixel ultra wide angle lens, and an 8-megapixel telephoto shooter.
The feature-packed Mate X may never find its way to the U.S, given the Trump administration has officially barred U.S. companies from buying telecom equipment from Huawei. Likewise, the U.S. Department of Commerce forbids U.S. companies from offering hardware and software to Huawei without permission. So while the Mate X runs Android, it won’t have any Google apps installed, similar to Huawei’s Mate 30 Pro smartphone. Still, despite those hurdles, the Mate X sold out online on Friday “within seconds,” according to Huawei.
LG G8X ThinQ
Phone owners intrigued by foldable phones but put off by steep prices and technological bugs may find a great compromise in the LG G8X ThinQ.
The Android device, which went on sale in early November starting at $700, doubles its 6.4-inch screen size with the help of a special case that comes with the device and includes a second display. Simply drop the G8X ThinQ into the case, and you have a foldable phone with twice the screen size for easier multitasking.
Folded or not, LG’s smartphone is no slouch, given its affordable price. The phone packs a Snapdragon 855 processor with eight computing cores and 6 gigabytes of RAM, 128 gigabytes of on-board storage, a 32-megapixel selfie cam on the front, and two wide-angle cameras on the back.
But there’s a drawback to the ThinQ’s unconventional form factor: Not all apps are customized to take advantage of LG’s dual screen feature, which might make for some clunky moments using the phone. Also, charging the phone while its in its dual screen case requires a small, custom adapter that comes included—but is easy to lose.
Microsoft Surface Duo
At a company event this October, Microsoft surprised the world when it previewed the Surface Duo, a smartphone running Android—yes, Android— that sports a pair of 5.6-inch displays that fold out into a larger 8.3-inch screen.
Users will be able to flip around the Surface Duo’s screens, which can rotate 360 degrees, to use the device either as a phone or tablet. And when the screens are side by side, the phone will be able to multitask with several apps at once, dragging-and-dropping between programs and displays, stretch one app across both screens, or simply using the second screen as a keyboard. Although a Snapdragon 855 processor with eight computing cores will power the device, little else is known about the Surface Due—including its price—which is expected to be released some time during the 2020 holiday season.
Smartphone users who fondly recall Motorola’s iconic RAZR flip phone from the early 2000s may be intrigued by the company’s new Razr, which the company announced on Wednesday. Available for pre-order on Verizon in the U.S. starting Dec. 26 for $1,499 and shipping in January 2020, the Razr marries the flip phone design that made original such a classic, with a 6.2-inch pOLED display that folds in half when the phone is closed. On the outside, a 2.7-inch gOLED display shows information like notifications, song tracks, and the time of day.
The Razr, which will run Android 9 Pie as its operating system, is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 710 processor with eight computing cores running at 2.2 GHz, paired with 6 gigabytes of RAM along with 128 gigabytes of onboard storage. According to Motorola, the Razr should get the average user “a full-day of use,” but the company would not further elaborate on that claim.
Fortune’s brief hands-on of the new Razr revealed a sturdy stainless steel chassis, a crisp display, and snappy performance, although the speakers at the bottom sounded below average for a smartphone at that price.
Released in October 2018, six-year-old flexible display startup Royole—based in Shenzhen, China and Fremont, Calif.—put out the FlexPai, the world’s first foldable phone.
The FlexPai has a 7.8-inch OLED display and becomes two—not just one—Android phones when it’s closed shut. (According to the company, one of the two phones is the user’s primary phone, while the other is essentially a back-up.)
Buggy and reportedly more a proof of concept than a full-fledged product, the FlexPai starts at 8,999 yuan, or roughly $1,318. The Android-powered phone is powered by a Snapdragon 855 processor with eight computing cores, and has up to 8 gigabytes of RAM and up to 512 gigabytes of on-board storage.
Critics who have used the FlexPai were frustrated with the phone’s buggy software, which was problematic when the device performed even the most basic tasks, including being folded, unfolded and rotated.
Samsung Galaxy Fold
When Samsung announced the Galaxy Fold in February 2019, reactions were mixed. For a staggering $1,980—more than many computers—the device unfolds its 4.6-inch screen to reveal a 7.3-inch tablet with its “Infinity Flex Display.” Also, on-board: a 64-bit processor with eight cores, 512 gigabytes of built-in storage, and 12 gigabytes of RAM.
Samsung touts the Galaxy Fold’s multitasking chops for juggling three open apps at once, as well as a feature called “App Continuity,” the ability to start interacting with an app on the smaller front screen and continue using it on the larger screen inside. Yet even Samsung acknowledged the device was essentially a work-in-progress when the Galaxy Fold was announced, and the company expected to be “surprised” with how the Galaxy Fold is used day to day.
Some reviewers this April received a surprise of their own when they observed the device’s 7.3-inch screen breaking after just several days of use. The debacle forced Samsung to delay the Galaxy Fold’s release, and Samsung mobile boss DJ Koh even called the Galaxy Fold launch “embarrassing,” acknowledging in an interview with The Independent in July he pushed for the Fold’s release “before it was ready.” Eventually the Galaxy Fold came out in September with a revised design and construction.
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—A new Motorola Razr—and its folding screen—could bring phone design back to the future
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