Folding Phones: Why, Who and When?
It’s no big secret. The folding phone has been tested and teased by manufacturers for years. Yes, years. But latest whispers suggest that it could finally be making an appearance as early as next year.
Early patents showcase a variety of different designs, however foldable OLED displays and flexible circuit boards are key. With a newly adapted hinge mechanism, smartphones may soon be able to quite literally fold into place.
But why might we be excited about such technology and when might folding phones start entering the market?
It may be obvious; however, a folding smartphone will allow for a device with a much larger screen.
With current phone trends pointing towards bigger, brighter displays and slimmer bezels, a folding phone would blow the competition out of the water. Imagine all the benefits of a tablet and a phone rolled into one.
It would be difficult to increase screen size in the current market and still produce a device that’s practical. Therefore, this could be the next logical option.
The technology of smartphone cameras has evolved rapidly alongside demand. Whilst capabilities are better than ever, many devices are unable to balance the needs of the front and rear shooter. As such, one camera is usually worse than the other.
A foldable device would allow manufacturers to focus their efforts on one exceptional lens that could work as front or rear camera, according to whether the device was open or closed.
Further, by featuring only one shooting device, manufacturers would have significantly more space to play with for other components.
One of the clear benefits of a folding phone is the ability to multi-task.
Many early leaks and/or rumours point towards turning a single display into multiple with a new hinge mechanism. In this way, you can access a number of apps at once and work simultaneously.
Better Gaming Experience
With bigger displays or indeed two or more in mind, games and apps can be created with increased functionality.
This may include a set-up similar to that found within the Nintendo-DS or better graphics on a larger screen. The possibilities are endless!
With these elements in mind, not only is a foldable phone technically impressive and pretty damn cool, however it would also be fantastically practical.
Many early patents suggest a wallet-like structure that can be folded up into a neat and compact size. This makes it all the easier to have your device whilst on-the-go, whether it’s in the palm of your hand or your trouser pocket.
Similarly, a hinge-like mechanism could act in protecting your device further from damage and breakage.
Other patents include a small display on the front of the device so that notifications can be viewed without fully unfolding the phone.
Who & When?
Whilst specs haven’t yet been confirmed, CEO DJ Koh has confirmed that Samsung has been working on a foldable device that could be released next year.
Rumours suggest that the smartphone would be operated as usual when laid flat, but when folded, top and bottom halves could be operated separately. A 6-axis accelerometer would be key, automatically detecting whether the device is folded and adapting the display accordingly.
Samsung’s folding phone production is said to be initially limited to a small number of units and the price will be very high.
Chasing the pack, Huawei are reportedly set to be first to unveil their folding device. The Huawei foldable phone could be launched as soon as November, with official release coming early next year.
The Huawei patent details a phone with two displays that folds from the middle. As such, when folded open, the device will look more like a tablet in terms of size and display.
LG’s plans have been only whispers in the wind and as such, it is unclear as to when the company plans to launch their folding phone.
A patent from LG did however surface detailing a hinge mechanism upon which the display sits. This will allow the device to be folded at certain angles and similarly helps against shattering.
Motorola were granted a patent in 2016 for a folding phone that utilises heat.
The device would use a hinge mechanism to fold, however a thermal element would be included to repair any deformation by straightening it back up. By this means, a device could flex in more than one direction and have more than one hinge.
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