There’s been a wealth of rumors and speculation surrounding the concept of foldable smartphones lately, and most major phone-makers including Samsung, LG, and even Apple have filed or have been awarded patents covering their own unique foldable designs.
Of course, while patents generally seek provide technical insight into what the companies are envisioning and don’t necessarily represent a definitive product to market plan, it’s apparently the sheer number of patents surrounding foldable smartphone technologies that have some analysts predicting we could see them hit the market much sooner than expected.
According to a new DigiTimes report published on Monday, certain industry observers speculate that we could see the first wave of foldable smartphones announced sometime before the end of 2018 — even if the device(s) themselves don’t officially hit the market until early next year.
“Samsung has been developing smartphones with inward-folding displays since five years ago and has completed up to 80% of the manufacturing process of related products,” DigiTimes noted, citing industry watchers quoted by the Korea-based ET News.
The same sources allegedly went on to add that “Huawei is expected to unveil its first foldable smartphone by the end of 2018,” which would make the mainland Chinese vendor first to officially launch a foldable smartphone device.
DigiTimes went on to cite how a number of smartphone vendors, including those aforementioned, as well as Oppo and ZTE, are currently in the process of developing their foldable smartphone technologies — and how these company’s respective patents, or rather the sheer number of them, inherently prove that.
Meanwhile, devices like the ZTE Axon M (which has already arrived on the scene) may offer us a glimpse into what some of these OEMs may be working on. Though that device embodies a foldable form-factor which allows its two 5.2-inch display panels to work in together, when unfolded, providing a massive 6.75-inch display area.
It’s worth noting that truly foldable smartphone patents like those granted to Apple and Samsung present much more radical and inherently advanced designs, boasting a singular, OLED-based foldable display panel.
News and speculation of a broader rush to produce foldable smartphones comes as Apple has been dabbling in the same arena for a while. Even in the last few months, Cupertino has been granted multiple patents covering everything from a flexible, bendable display technology, to curved and even all-out clamshell style iPhone form-factors, embodying what could represent a future evolution in at least some iPhone models.
While it’s highly unlikely we’ll see any of Apple’s foldable devices hit the market before 2019 or even 2020, the Cupertino-company’s ambitions in the foldable smartphone arena are still clear and highly anticipated. Be sure to check out some of Apple’s previous foldable iPhone patents and stunning conceptual designs.