Best foldables of 2019 & 2020
Royole FlexPai (2019)
The Royole FlexPai is the first commercially available device with a foldable display, released in January of this year, and it’s more of a prototype to nab that first-place position in the foldable race than an actual device worth buying. The FlexPai runs with a Snapdragon 855 and a 7.8-inch AMOLED panel, but it’s a glitchy device unpolished both inside and out. It doesn’t fold flat as a phone, nor does it lay flat as a tablet.
Priced at over $1300, the Royole FlexPai claims the honorable position of first foldable smartphone, and not much else. If anything, it provides a good place for future generations to improve on.
Check out our full hands-on of the Royole FlexPai here
Samsung Galaxy Fold (2019)
Following on the heels of the FlexPai, this April saw Samsung release the Galaxy Fold, featuring a 7.3-inch main display and a 4.6-inch secondary outer display, to an incredible amount of hype. It was, perhaps, the second-most disastrous launch in the company’s history. The foldable Galaxy was an admirable device with a peelable display- as in you could peel it, but only once. Turns out the peelable layer was actually an important part of the display, causing mass failures across the first units. It was time for Samsung to go back to the drawing board…
Huawei Mate X (2019/2020)
Meanwhile, the other major player in the current foldable market is Huawei. First announced in February of this year and planned for a June launch, the Mate X was pushed to September in light of the Galaxy Fold’s troubles and then to November for a China-only release, with an international release date yet to be announced.
Still, we’ve seen a number of prototypes on several occasions, which gives us a good idea of the phone’s design. Unlike Samsung’s effort, the Mate X folds outwards, so the halves of the display end up back-to-back. The Mate X is a sleek, thin device powered by the blazingly fast Kirin 980 that boasts 512GB of storage. From what we know now, it looks like the Mate X could be the foldable to beat.
Except, of course, Huawei’s handset won’t have access to Google services like Gmail or the Play Store, due to the ongoing feud between the two giants. With that in mind, as well as the astronomical $2,600 price point, it’ll be interesting to see how the foldable will fare.
Check out our full hands-on of the Huawei Mate X here
Microsoft Surface Duo (2019/2020)
Perhaps the biggest surprise announcement of the year, the Surface Duo is a new phone developed by Microsoft, and it will run Android- both very unexpected. Announced at the Surface event this year, the Surface Duo is composed of two 5.6-inch displays. The design looks slim and polished, with a 360-degree hinge that should allow you to easily switch between modes.
Unfortunately, there isn’t much else to say about it. We have a good idea of the physical design, some vague points about the hardware, and the fact that it will run Android. Otherwise, the Surface Duo is more a concept than anything else- and that’s intentional. Microsoft announced the device a year before launch with the hope that software developers would hop on to provide a decent ecosystem in time for the official release. With the Surface Duo, Microsoft will face the age-old problem using two screens instead of one, which plagued the first dual-screen phones like the Kyocera Echo and later the ZTE Axon M. Whether it can succeed, only time will tell.
Samsung Galaxy Fold, again (2019)
This September, Samsung released the new and improved Galaxy Fold, this time tucking in the sensitive parts of the screen and adding extra plastic caps for good measure. Hopefully, the enhanced durability will be enough to keep units fresh for years of use.
With those pressing issues out of the way, the full Galaxy Fold experience was finally ready. Samsung probably has the claim for the most usable, most polished foldable phone available today. With nifty software, Samsung ensured seamless transitions from the two displays, as well as support for three apps running side-by-side.
Of course, it still has its weaknesses, like the thick, bulky design and the miniscule outer display from far beyond yesterday, not to mention the $2000 price tag. Regardless, the Galaxy Fold is, in many ways, the future ahead of schedule.
LG G8X ThinQ (2019)
Considerably less ambitious, but also less experimental, is LG’s pseudo-foldable G8X. Instead of a foldable display, the LG’s offering opts for a secondary-screen attachment to offer a 6.4-inch OLED display identical to the panel on the main device. The two displays are connected with a 360-degree hinge for a variety of viewing modes, and the dual displays can run any two apps separately or together in special modes, with one display acting as a keyboard or gamepad. The G8X is arguably the first dual-screen device with the software and processing power to make full use of the extra real estate.
Without the second screen, the G8X is a competent but perhaps boring $800 flagship, if only until it gets to show off its magic trick. This is the greatest strength of LG’s foldable- it’s not as exciting as others, but it perfectly bridges the gap between today and tomorrow’s technology.
Motorola Razr (2019/2020)
Rumors around Motorola's foldable in development have been flying around for almost a year, and just yesterday the company finally took the wraps off the new, foldable reboot of the legendary Razr V3, which will be open for preorders on December 26 as a Verizon exclusive. Motorola's foldable has the advantage of familiarity, with the iconic design evoking nostalgia in many. It's also easily the most compact foldable we've seen yet.
But even though it's cheaper than it's rivals, $1,500 is still a steep price for a device that doesn't offer the phone-plus-tablet dual functionality of other foldables. It's also powered by a midrange Snapdragon 710, not the flagship-standard 855. Still, Motorola's shown that they can make midrange hardware work, and the Razr 2019 is a unique device that pushes foldables in a new and potentially more approachable direction.
Check out our coverage of the new Moto Razr
Samsung Galaxy Fold 2 (unknown)
Though the Galaxy Fold is still hot off the presses, Samsung seems to already be gearing for its next foldable. According to a number of rumors and reports, the second Fold should be a clamshell form factor like the Motorola Razr foldable, folding horizontally into a pocket-friendly size instead of expanding into a tablet. Other details, like hardware, size, and release date, are only speculation for now.
Check out our full thoughts on the rumored Galaxy Fold 2 here
Xiaomi Mi Fold (unknown)
Xiaomi has been hinting at a foldable under development since January, and it’s another radical design. Unlike every foldable released so far, Xiaomi’s is poised to have two hinges, both folding outward to form a smartphone. The display seems to wrap around the sides in phone mode, while the tablet mode is closer to a square aspect ratio than other tablets.
According to rumors, the foldable may cost as little as $1000, on par with many flagships today and severely undercutting every foldable competitor. The exact size, hardware, and even the name of the device are yet unknown, but it’s certainly one to look out for.
TCL Trifold (unknown)
An honorable mention goes to TCL’s prototype model with a unique accordion design. With two hinges that fold in opposite directions, the phone will apparently fold down to a slim, thick strip and expand into a full-sized tablet. TCL has yet to produce a working prototype or any other details, but it will be interesting to see what directions the design could go.
As you can see, various manufacturers are taking this new technology in many different directions. With foldable devices becoming more and more polished, it will be exciting to see where they go next.