Apple, Samsung and Huawei are Working on Foldable Phones

Axon ZTE Foldable Smartphone

This year was the year of minimal bezels on smartphones. But in 2018, the next big trend might just be handsets with foldable displays.

China’s ZTE might just have been the first manufacturer to debut a foldable smartphone. This week, the company launched the Axon M, a device with two displays that can fold out for a larger screen real estate. Samsung and Apple have also been rumored to be working on their own foldable phones.

Now, the world’s third largest phone manufacturer announced that they too are jumping on the foldable phone bandwagon. China-based Huawei told CNET earlier this week that they are working on a foldable phone, which could be ready to launch as soon as next year. CEO Richard Yu told the publication that they “already have a working sample.”

But there are some hurdles ahead for Huawei, and indeed for any OEM exploring the form factor. For starters, Huawei said that its product needs better and more flexible screen tech to overcome the current limitations of mechanical design. “We have two screens,” Yu added. “But we still have a small gap (between them). That’s not good, and we should get rid of that gap.”

With Huawei’s revelation, it means that the three largest phone makers in the world are exploring smartphones with foldable displays. That should be at least a vague indication of where smartphone design and the industry at large might be heading.

Earlier this year, Samsung was said to be on the verge of rolling out a fold-out smartphone this year. While that’s looking less likely, it also hints that the Korean OEM might be looking ahead at 2018 — and it has the patents to back it up. Evidence suggests that Apple is also looking into the form factor, as they hold a number of patents related to foldable displays and clamshell smartphone designs.

As for Huawei, Yu also said that it’s the company’s “destiny” to surpass Samsung and Apple as the largest phone maker in the world. Whether that will be the case — and whether a foldable smartphone might help Huawei’s ambitions — remains to be seen.

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