It looks like 2019 is going to be the year of the foldable phone: from the Samsung Galaxy X (or is it the Samsung Galaxy Fold?) to a potential Motorola Razr reboot, it seems as though almost every phone maker is bending over backwards to perfect the tech.
We've already seen some demos of the folding phone tech in action – albeit rather brief demos – and here's everything else we know about what's coming down the line. If you like the idea of a foldable phone, then you'd better get saving.
1. Samsung Galaxy X
It was last year at Samsung's developer conference where we first got an idea of what the Samsung Galaxy X is going to look like: small and chunky. Unfortunately we couldn't get a hands on with the device at that event or at the rumoured behind-closed-doors showing at CES 2019, though, suggesting there's still a bit of work to be done on it.
Since then, though, and mere weeks before Samsung's big Unpacked event, we got another glimpse of what looked like the Galaxy X in an official Samsung video, which was seemingly posted accidentally on Samsung Vietnam's YouTube channel.
The video trailer, which was swiftly removed, showed a woman holding a device similar to the one shown off last year but looking far more futuristic and less like a prototype, with the phone boasting very slim bezels and much thinner thickness. Whether or not this phone actually is the folding phone everyone is waiting for from Samsung remains to be seen, though.
What we do know though is that Samsung is going to call the screen the Infinity Flex Display, it'll make its way into several devices in the future, and that we should see the technology officially unveiled on February 20, 2019. However, we still don't know the name of the actual phone... it might be the Galaxy X or it might be the Galaxy F... or it might be something else altogether.
As best as we can tell, the front of the Galaxy X has two 4.6-inch screens, which become a 7.29-inch tablet when folded. The rear of the device has a third 3.5-inch screen that allows it to be viewed even when folded down. This indicates that the device will work via a series of intricate hinges.
Essentially, it's a gadget that can transition between a phone and a tablet, something developers will be able to take advantage of courtesy of Samsung's new One UI software.
In terms of when we can expect to see and hear more, the latest industry gossip says the phone will be shown off in a more finished form at MWC 2019 in February, though it still might not go on sale for several months after that.
As for UK prices for the Samsung Galaxy X and prices elsewhere around the world, we're hearing a price of at least $1,400 (£1,112 converted) is on the cards. Being an early adopter has never been cheap.
2. Motorola Razr 2019
From the noises that Motorola has been making, it's not going to be far behind Samsung with a foldable phone, and apparently it's also going to carry the iconic Motorola Razr branding. It's going to be a flip phone then, but with a full foldable screen inside when you open it up.
These rumours have been around for a while. It was back in February 2017 that Yang Yuanqing, the CEO of Lenovo (which owns Motorola) told TechRadar: "With the new technology, particularly foldable screens, I think you will see more and more innovation on our smartphone design. So hopefully what you just described [the Motorola Razr brand] will be developed or realised very soon."
Since then we've seen Motorola file a patent for a two-screen folding phone that flips out to be used as a tablet. The patent describes two cameras, as well as hinges at the top, bottom and middle, and the ability to be propped up into a tent-like display mode. An unfolded screen size of 7 inches has been mooted for the Razr Motorola foldable phone.
As yet we haven't seen any leaked images of what the foldable Motorola phone might look like, but we do have a fantastic concept video from the talented folks at TechConfigurations. If the phone ends up looking as good as this, we'd be prepared to pay what's likely to be a very high price for it.
3. LG Bendi
LG never likes to get left too far behind Samsung, and sure enough it's been one of the busiest companies in developing foldable screen tech – not just for phones but for televisions and other devices (see the image above). In recent months LG has confirmed it's working on foldable phones, without revealing too many other details.
In fact, we think folding LG displays could be used by other phone makers, including Huawei. We were therefore very unsurprised back in January to hear that LG had filed a patent showing off a "mobile phone with a flexible display which can be folded in half", including the diagrams shown below.
At the moment it looks like LG's foldable will feature just two screens rather than the Samsung Galaxy X's three: possibly with one of the screens making use of a transparent section, or perhaps with a camera system embedded in the back plate.
Since that original patent filing we've seen names like Flex, Foldi and Duplex mentioned in internal LG documents. As for the final design, or the final price, we're still in the dark – it's going to be expensive, but LG has promised not to rush the device to market before it's ready, so a late 2019 launch could be possible.
4. Xiaomi MIX Flex
One of the more recent folding phones to get a teaser reveal is the Xiaomi MIX Flex, a prototype device that was famously shown off on camera by company president and co-founder Lin Bin.
In the video reveal the Xiaomi handset is initially shown in tablet mode, but then both sides of the device are folded inwards at two points, leaving only the middle third of the phone on show.
This design is markedly different to that of the other folding phones so far announced, potentially giving Xiaomi an edge in the folding phone market.
In a message accompanying the video Lin Bin wrote that:
"Xiaomi double folding mobile phone is coming! This symmetrical double-folded form perfectly combines the experience of the tablet and mobile phone, which is both practical and beautiful. Although it is still an engineering machine, it is sent out for everyone to see. If you like it, we will consider making a mass production machine in the future.
"In addition, we want to give this engineering machine a name, what do you think is good? I think of two: Xiaomi Dual Flex, Xiaomi MIX Flex."
5. Huawei Mate 5G
Last and absolutely by no means least is the folding phone that Huawei is working on. Last October, CEO of Huawei, Richard Yu, confirmed that the Chinese maker already had a working prototype of a flexible smartphone, and then in March of this year patent diagrams of a foldable Huawei phone emerged.
Since then, Huawei has reiterated its commitment to bringing out a foldable phone, primarily because smartphone users need more room on their screens to save them having to keep returning to their laptops for certain tasks. We've also seen another excellent concept video from TechConfigurations based on patent filings.
The patent documents themselves refer to the device simply as "foldable smartphone", but show a book-like phone that can be opened up to create a larger tablet, with a smart Surface Book 2-style hinge connecting each of the folder's two screens.
From dual-lens cameras to wireless charging, Huawei likes to rush new features in at the earliest opportunity, and foldable screens should be no different. As with the other phones here though, expect to pay a lot of money for the first model if it does break cover in 2019.
Indeed, from what we can see here at T3, it looks like solving that hinge design is the key to producing a successful foldable phone right now, whether or not it uses two or three screens. Any hinge would need to be as compact and invisible as possible to make the device a game changer, as the last thing anyone needs is some clunky PDA-style block stuck in their pocket.
The concept video we've already seen means Huawei has a lot to live up to, and while we know it's on the way, what's less clear is what it will look like or what the spec is going to be. At least Google has confirmed that Android will soon support folding displays, so the software will be ready in advance of the hardware.
Lead image credit: LetsGoDigital