The first bendy future-fetchers - Galaxy Fold
and Huawei Mate X
- turned out to be... how to euphemise it... uninspiring. The two foldable phones from brand-name manufacturers that actually reached a retail stage are big bulky contraptions that look and feel more like prototypes than polished rule-breakers, and both charge about two grand for the early adopter privilege. The sad part is that they also behave like prototypes, and Samsung had to pull the first batch in order to fix the issues that arose from using the preview units it sent out.
There are other players than Samsung or Huawei that will be entering the nascent foldable phone market this year, though, like Xiaomi or Motorola, and while the big names brawl, they might actually turn out to be very competitive with prices and design concepts, like the tri-fold from Xiaomi you see below.
The one we are waiting on with bated breath, however, is said foldable Motorola RAZR which has been bandied about in rumors since last summer, and whose existence the Wall Street Journal confirmed
back in January. Since then we've heard quite a bit more about its price, specs and release date, while Motorola has filed plenty of patents on its possible form, so we are wrapping up everything that is known about the RAZR 2019 so far.
Foldable Motorola phone patents
Motorola RAZR 2019 design and specs
The whole premise of foldable phones was, until a few years ago, to turn the 4"+ phone screens of the time into 7"+ ones without having to lug around a giant phone, and it took Samsung seven years to end up with a retail device on that concept. The problem that is evident with the Galaxy Fold and the Mate X is that they are giant phones. Regardless of whether you fold them inwards or outwards, bending the phones around the vertical axis makes them thick, tall, and uncomfortable to carry around in pockets.
The original RAZR is the form that Moto could be going for
Samsung itself may have noticed this controversy, and a rumored 6.7" Galaxy Fold heir will eventually bend around the horizontal axis, and will reportedly have just a small 1" screen on the outside for date/time/notification icons. That's quite a clever and eventually cheaper to produce approach than the current Fold concept.
The Galaxy Fold is more in the tablet realm when unfurled, while its successor is supposed to be a fairly compact clamshell when tucked in your pocket. When opened, the 6.7" display is exactly the size of the one on the Galaxy S10 5G
. That's more like what we imagined a foldable handset would bring to the table.
Folding on the shorter, horizontal axis, would have the resulting phone be more compact, and that's why Motorola's rumored foldable phone is tipped to be exactly what it says on the tin - a true spiritual successor to the RAZR clamshell, but with an invisible hinge on the interior. There exist two rumors about the size of the display when unfurled - 6.5" or 6.2" - and if you are wondering what the smaller diagonal would look like, go no further that this here prototype designed by Sharp to showcase its bendy 6.2 inches OLED display panel.
At the low-for-foldables $1500 price point one shouldn't expect 855+ chipset and QHD+ resolutions. The RAZR's display is tipped to bang a resolution of 876 x 2142 pixels, returning a rather tall aspect ratio of 22:9. A much smaller secondary panel on the outside of the smartphone is said to sport a 4:3 aspect ratio with a humble 800 x 600 resolution. There is a whiff of possibility for a rear-mounted fingerprint scanner contained within the Motorola logo but we'll believe that when we see it.
Camera and chipset specs, as well as memory and storage amounts are still unknown, though we would be surprised if they are top-of-the-line, given the lack of space and the eventual price tag.
Sharp's approach in the video demo above is closer to what we imagined a foldable handset would be - an old-fashioned flip phone that has an uninterrupted screen where the hinge would be, making it compact to carry, and giving you a huge display when you need it.
Kolon's cover film may end up in the new flexible RAZR
As to how will this be achieved, fret not, as we already know that the Korean company Kolon, which supplied the flexible cover for the first foldable device announced, Royole's FlexPai, will be rising from the ashes of Samsung's neglect by equipping Motorola's upcoming flexible RAZR.
Motorola is said to aim for about 200,000 RAZR phones in total which is a decent batch, and Kolon says they are "currently supplying transparent PI samples to global display companies. However, it is difficult to confirm whether our products were used for certain devices." The PI film is attached to the OLED screen underneath with an extremely durable and flexible adhesive and which should allow the package to bend at the middle by stretching a bit but not coming unglued and doing this many times while retaining its original size and form.
Kolon may be the main supplier of flexible cover film for the foldables of Xiaomi, Huawei and Motorola, and perhaps even Samsung, whose Japanese supplier Sumitomo was hit by the geopolitical issues between the two countries. The flexible OLED panel of the RAZR itself, however, isn't coming from Samsung, but from the Chinese display maker AUO, to which Kolon has already supplied samples of its PI film to fuse together.
Motorola RAZR 2019 price and release
All in all, the latest tips confirm that the foldable Motorola RAZR is in advanced stages of development, and we can't wait to take it for a spin if/when it lands on Verizon. There is no other handset more suitable for the bendy treatment than the ultrapopular clamshell of yesteryear.
The Galaxy Fold is expected to cost just short of $2000 again, with the 5G version going for more, while the Mate X that will ship with 5G modem from the get-go is pegged at 2299 EUR. The RAZR, however, will have the smallest screen of them all Gumby phones, at 6.2 inches, the most logical bend - around a horizontal axis - and the lowest price of about $1500, concurrent with the price tag we are hearing for Xiaomi's foldable.
The Galaxy Fold release date is pegged for September 18, Huawei's Mate X could beat it to the punch as it passed its 5G connectivity certifications already, while the foldable RAZR will most likely see a late fall release, so as not to clash with the big guns. Any takers?