Home / Technology / Rushing collapsible phones does not work. Just ask Samsung and Huawei

Rushing collapsible phones does not work. Just ask Samsung and Huawei


The Galaxy Fold opens on a screen of 7.3 inches.

Angela Lang / CNET

If the uplifting tale of the turtle and hare applies to foldable phones, Samsung and Huawei learn the hard way that being first does not always guarantee the price. The phone makers wanted them Galaxy Fold and Mate X to prove how foldable a phone can be exciting and successful. Instead, we had a lot of flash and – until now – little substance.

Foldable phones were meant to be the future, but delays at $ 2,600 Mate X and $ 1,980 Galaxy Fold threaten to make the new DOA drawings. Samsung delayed the fold when the screens on the phone test of some reviewers continued (ours does not have). Huawei asked Mate X "to improve" the screen, the Wall Street Journal reported, although Huawei will surely also want to avoid the same fate as the delicate plastic screen of the Fold.

These snafus threaten to derail what was once advertised as one of the biggest jumps for mobile phones. The foldable phones promised to double the size of the screen and revolutionize the design at a time when Phone sales declined in the midst of dull annual aesthetic improvements.

But the major hiccup slows the enthusiasm for flexible devices before they even come out. A foldable phone must use flexible plastic, which makes it particularly vulnerable to nicks and cuts, pressure damage and formed bulges through the debris tunnels under the display. These delays cast doubt on the ability of radically expensive devices to withstand constant use.

The delays are not a total surprise. The phone brands only briefly showed their foldable phones, unlike other phones that see much more time in the hands of reviewers before the last replay unit appears. We used the Mate X for about five minutes in march and first hit the Galaxy Fold a few moments before we received our exam unit in April. Phone manufacturers elusive attitude was a strong sign that folding appliances were not ready for prime time.

The Fold was announced on February 20 and was due to be sold on April 26, 50 days ago. Huawei unveiled the Mate X a few days later and is expected to be sold in June. Samsung declined to comment. Huawei has not responded to a request for comment.


The Mate X's screen tilts, which means that the plastic screen covers the outside of the phone frame.

Andrew Hoyle / CNET

Plastic is a problem, but foldable glass takes years

From the beginning, phone watchers have noticed that the folding plastic screens of Galaxy Fold and Mate X could be the cause of their loss. Because who wants to spend $ 2,000 or more on a phone subject to scratches?

Observers were most concerned about the "ugly" fold you see when you unfold a foldable phone in full screen mode, and if this could result in wear of hundreds of thousands of elbows. The fold appears either as a ridge or as a valley, depending on whether the largest screen deploys inside or outside the device. For example, the Galaxy Fold opens like a book to reveal a 7.3-inch inner screen, where the Mate X's 8-inch screen behaves rather like a book cover surrounding the outside of the frame.


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A plastic screen subject to scratches on its softer surface was another problem, especially for outward bending models such as Mate X, where a larger part of the screen is exposed.

In the case of the Galaxy Fold, where Gorilla Glass protects the inner screen when the phone is closed, I've still noticed marks and scratches on the plastic overlay material after only seven days. Some Fold problems were raised because the examiners peeled off a protective layer it was not meant to come off, which made the phone immediately stop working. Samsung has would have solved these problems, but did not share when he plans to put the Galaxy Fold on sale.

The key to making phones stronger is the flexible glass, which will only be ready in a few years. CNET got a exclusive look at Corning curved glass, which, even fragile, should still offer some protection on the plastic screens of Galaxy Fold and Mate X.

What about the ban by the United States against Huawei?

Some wondered whether the US government's decision to Huawei blacklist of its US partners plays a role in the delay of Mate X For example, Huawei is cut off from everything US-based business supply software (for example, Android), components and even consulting services in all Huawei companies.

Although the ban has benefited from a temporary stay allowing Huawei to take over current products, it is not certain that Mate X falls into this category. The Mate X was announced before President Trump signed the executive order against Huawei, but not yet published.

If Huawei needs Google's support for foldable phones and Android applications to sell the Mate X outside of China, this could certainly influence his decision to wait. The Wall Street Journal reported that parts supply was not a problem, according to Vincent Peng, vice president of Huawei, but that Huawei and Google were still discussing the license for Android applications.

Android Q supports foldable phones.


Do not give up folding phones yet

It is too early to declare the foldable phones dead. Samsung and Huawei are still considering launching an improved Galaxy Fold and Mate X, respectively, and Google said support for foldable designs in May at its annual Google I / O Developer Conference. This means that application designers are already optimizing their software to run on foldable phones.

As their business began to stutter, these companies invested millions of dollars in collapsible designs. This is a bet on which they expect to pay in the long run.

Other brands of phones also have foldable plans. Apple, LG, TCL and Oppo either filed patent applications on plausible grounds or announced their work. Rumors are ripe for a The foldable return of Moto Razr design that modernize the beloved flip phone.

Apple often waits years after creating a category (smartphone or smartwatch) before offering a fully polished product.

The earliest models of foldable phones were always going to be niche, beta-type devices for advanced users, models that reveal the strengths and weaknesses of a whole new design ethic that their designers could then refine.

Samsung and Huawei wanted to score the first points and force their rivals to do the same. But if competitors learn a lesson, you have to slow down and design their collapsible designs. Let's hope that Samsung and Huawei also take note of it.

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