To absolutely no one’s surprise, the early announcements out of the Barcelona-based smartphone show have been dominated by two things: 5G and folding displays. In the weeks leading up to Mobile World Congress 2019, mobility firms have dropped news about the forthcoming next-gen network, while phone makers unveiled their strategies for differentiating themselves in the smartphone category.
On the 5G side of things, there are plenty of new phones coming down the pike that will have support for the new connectivity standard, so it’s really just a matter of when the switch will be flipped on. Sprint said it would do just that in four cities this May. Subscribers in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, and Kansas City will be the first to get access to the network with Houston, LA, New York City, Phoenix, and Washington following close behind. Verizon’s list more than triples that, while T-Mobile delayed their 5G rollout until the second half of this year, and AT&T is still recovering from its misleading 5Ge “rollout.”
Let’s get to the foldables, though. I think I’ve made my thoughts pretty clear on the emerging category of smartphones—essentially that this first round of flexible display devices is going to be a massive flop. But it’s still intriguing to see how manufacturers decide to approach the space. To this point, we’ve seen the Royole FlexPai, the Samsung Galaxy Fold, and Xiaomi’s unnamed foldable device, all three of which have a different form factor. And now, with the rest of the world’s leading smartphone makers all gathered in Spain for their big event, additional devices have started to enter the fray.
Let’s run through them:
Huawei Mate X. Never one to shy away from doing something Apple-esque, Huawei’s Mate X (pronounced “10”), adopts a form factor that’s closer to Royole’s foldable device with a few differences. For starters, when opened, the eight-inch tablet features a tech-filled bar that doubles as a grip for the user. In that bar, Huawei packs components, camera lenses, and a finger print sensor. When closed, the phone has a 6.38-inch display that towers over the Galaxy Fold’s 4.6-inch screen. The Mate X is a thin device—just 5.4mm thick when opened and 10.8mm when folded in on itself—which is what makes it really stand out from the other foldables we’ve seen, but the $2,600 price tag leaves a real bad taste in the mouth.
Motorola RAZR Phone. Though still not 100 percent confirmed, the Motorola team that works under the Lenovo umbrella all but said flat out that its working on a foldable device during a press event at MWC 2019. Presumably the Razr phone we’ve heard so much about, this could be the foldable phone that ultimately takes the cake. Hilariously, though, it’s not expected to be one that folds out from a regular-sized smartphone into a much larger tablet. Rather, it’ll have a similar form factor to the old RAZR phone, just with a full touchscreen display rather than the old-school half-screen, half-physical keys layout. And at $1,500, it’ll be one of the lowest-priced foldable phones on the market.
Oppo Foldable Prototype. It doesn’t have a name, release date, pricing, or really much else other than a few press photos, but the Oppo foldable phone was at least present and working at MWC 2019, according to several reports. And, in looking at those photos, the one thing that stands out is how incredibly similar the device looks to the Huawei Mate X—down to the raised strip on the back of the tablet layout that houses cameras and more. So, while we wait on the specs and other details, we can still add the Oppo name to the foldable phone list.
TCL Foldables. The display manufacturer doesn’t push TCL-branded phones here in the states—Alcatel may ring a few bells along with their ownership of the Blackberry brand—but that’s not slowing them down from showing off their own foldable device concepts. Though the company wouldn’t let press touch the devices or even allow them to see the screens actively folded, TCL had plenty to say about their DragonHinge technology. According to a report from The Verge, the company is aiming to bring something to market out of this foldable portfolio by mid-2020, and it’s hoping to do so at a price point below the $1,000 mark.
MWC 2019 kicked officially kicked off on Monday and runs through February 28.