Tech experts are predicting that the first smartphones with foldable displays will hit the market by the end of the year. In addition to Samsung other companies that hold patents relating to foldable devices include Huawei, LG, Oppo, Lenovo ZTE and Apple.
As we know from countless Apple patent filings, they are a very unreliable way to predict product launches, but observers seem to be operating on the basis that the sheer number of companies exploring the tech means that at least some of them are likely to make it into production.
There is some basis for considering it more likely than not. Clamshell designs were once extremely popular for both feature phones and smartphones, originally with a screen in one half and a keyboard or keypad in the other. It’s a way of generating a larger surface area in a more pocketable format. And we have seen a number of folding Android phones with screens in both halves, albeit comprising two separate displays rather than one folding one.
A Korean report suggests that Samsung will at least announce foldable phones this year even if they don’t go on sale until next year, while the piece suggests that Huawei might be first to market.
There have been a couple of reports of Apple working on a foldable iPhone, along with the inevitable patents. Polls suggest a keen interest among Mac readers, with more than half of the respondents saying that they would probably or definitely pay a premium to buy a foldable iPhone at launch.
Apple’s first step in that direction is expected to be a modest one: a gently curved screen. Technically, the iPhone X also has a curved screen, though the only visible element of this is a very slight outward curve at the edges, while the bottom of the screen does a 180-degree curve inside the casing to facilitate the near-bezel-free design.