Samsung and Huawei need to start fearing Xiaomi's unique foldable smartphone

Samsung and Huawei need to start fearing Xiaomi's unique foldable smartphone
Unlike 5G, which probably still needs a couple more years to get off the ground and change the mobile industry in ways users can actually feel and grasp out in the real world, foldable designs are widely expected to start a revolution in 2019. It's not just Samsung that's working on a groundbreaking phone seamlessly capable of switching into tablet mode, as Huawei, Xiaomi, Motorola, LG, and Oppo have also confirmed or at least strongly alluded to concrete plans in this futuristic arena.

But there's more than one way to skin a cat, and as these companies explore sources of differentiation, the world's first wave of foldable gadgets is likely to provide quite a bit of form factor variety. After years of (not so) secret experimentation and numerous frustrating strategy revisions, Samsung appears to have settled on a somewhat conservative in-folding design, as demonstrated last fall and hyped more recently.

Meanwhile, Huawei is ambitiously aiming to one-up the global smartphone market leader with a more complex, possibly more convenient foldable product rocking a wraparound screen on the outside of its body. But then there's Xiaomi, whose President and Co-founder casually revealed a bananas foldable prototype like no other a few weeks back. This is billed as the world's first "double folding smartphone", and although it's obviously not ready for primetime, it's getting closer to a commercial debut.

Challenging production, limited release

In case you haven't realized, designing and especially mass-manufacturing a foldable mobile device is not easy. Pulling off a double folding design may have required double the effort and the insanity ambition from Xiaomi, which not only "co-developed" the essential flexible screen in collaboration with an unnamed "supply chain partner", according to an official statement provided to LetsGoDigital, but also created the "design, folding mechanism, and MIUI adaptation" from scratch.

That being said, the company attributes each individual innovation to the "joint, cumulative R&D efforts from supply chain partners and the device manufacturer", highlighting the folding screen alone couldn't have been "easily turned into a folding smartphone without significant breakthroughs in technology." Naturally, the trickiest thing to execute is a robust folding mechanism, but Xiaomi says technical challenges posed in three different form factors have been "conquered."

Indeed, Bin Lin's recent surprising hands-on video showed a sturdy-looking product capable of switching from smartphone to tablet mode without exhibiting obvious weaknesses. But the road from pre-release prototype to store shelves and then users' pockets is often as bumpy and convoluted as the road from concept to working prototype. 

While Xiaomi has yet to confirm a launch date for the device that's likely to be called the Dual Flex or Mi Mix Flex, insiders expect a little movement on that front sometime during the second half of the year. "Little" is the key word there, mind you, as the complex production process leads us to predict a commercial run of only a few thousand units. Certainly fewer than the million+ targeted by Samsung.

Beautiful 3D renders will haunt your dreams

Because a picture is worth a thousand words, especially when talking about an innovative product no one has actually seen in the flesh yet, the folks at LetsGoDigital have devised yet another stunning batch of foldable phone depictions. These are based on the design showcased by Xiaomi President Bin Lin, offering a much closer and sharper look at the four stages of this double folding handset's transformation.

If we're being completely honest, this bad boy makes the Samsung Galaxy Fold seem quite unambitious, essentially tapping into the full potential of the revolutionary foldable concept. If executed properly, the Xiaomi Dual Flex (or Mi Mix Flex) would allow users to fold two sections of the "tablet" screen behind another portion that would become a relatively short, wide, and surprisingly thin phone. 

That sounds (and looks) like the epitome of user flexibility, although durability and software remain major concerns. The folding mechanism needs to withstand long-term use and the constant strain of tablet-to-phone metamorphosis, while Xiaomi's proprietary MIUI platform will have to be perfectly adapted to both usage scenarios. But let's not be so negative and praise Xiaomi's unique vision rather than focusing solely on what might go wrong in the final stages of development. 

If even a handful of devices similar to what's illustrated in those 3D renders hit stores by the end of the year, Samsung will have a hard time generating further buzz for the Galaxy Fold



1. Phonehex

Posts: 763; Member since: Feb 16, 2016

Absolutely not, Samsung , Huawei ..esp samsung will be market leaders in the foldable space for the first couple of years due to their clear advantage in the "OLED" craft. Obviously the others will catch up over time , but won't be easy to get the hardware spot on.

8. path45th

Posts: 404; Member since: Sep 11, 2016

None of them has Aplle’s allure. When Apple decides to go foldable it will be the leader on day one.

9. Wickedsamaritan

Posts: 83; Member since: Aug 11, 2017

Running IOS ? eeww!

11. TheOracle1

Posts: 2259; Member since: May 04, 2015

You're probably right...... once they steal everything from the other manufacturers and then sue them for copyright. Unfortunately Apple lost their cojones for innovation when Jobs died.

2. midan

Posts: 2871; Member since: Oct 09, 2017

This is lot better concept than what Samsung is doing. But this is just a concept so far while Samsung have product ready. But if i would buy foldable device this definately would be number one choice so far. I'm personally lot more interested to see big tablets folding. These fodable phones can't offer big screen like big tablets, but who wouldn't want their big tablets to be in smaller size when they carry them.

4. AbhiD

Posts: 801; Member since: Apr 06, 2012

How is it better than Samsung one? Not a single advantage, only disadvantages. I know you are an Apple fan but that shouldn't come in the way of the truth

5. midan

Posts: 2871; Member since: Oct 09, 2017

I just don't like the concept of opening a phone, never owned any of those old flip phones, but this what xiaomi is doing look very cool and futuristic.

42. sissy246

Posts: 7111; Member since: Mar 04, 2015

The screen folding out it just stupid. There will be no way of protecting it.

26. pimpin83z

Posts: 541; Member since: Feb 08, 2019

"I'm personally lot more interested to see big tablets folding." This.

3. AbhiD

Posts: 801; Member since: Apr 06, 2012

Samsung's design is the best. Why would anyone want to have a foldable phones that folds outside which makes it more prone to breaking if dropped, getting scratches and as well as screens being turned on all the time leading to massive battery drain? Not to mention absolutely unnecessary accidental touches. While a device that folds inside like what Samsung showed will only have a small display outside normally using much less energy, much less chances of damage, no accidental touches and stuff. Manufactures should know that they don't have to be stupid in the zeal of being different. Just do what is best. Doesn't matter who else is doing the same.

6. midan

Posts: 2871; Member since: Oct 09, 2017

So you think that they haven't thought those stuffs? like accidental touches etc. Your hand is basicly touching the screen all the time with this product. That small screen with galaxy F is problem, you just want to unfold it to use it, because the main screen feels so small. With this Xiaomi you can use the front screen a lot too and just when you need that bigger screen you open it fully.

10. TheOracle1

Posts: 2259; Member since: May 04, 2015

Scratches and breaking could be taken care of by a hinged bumper case. The Vivo and Nubia Dual-screen phones have that sorted already using bumper cases. If you look at the video properly you'll also see that the folded portions switch off so battery drain and accidental touches aren't an issue either. I watched a documentary on Shenzen the other day and if anyone can overcome the obvious issues then it's the Chinese. Samsung may sell more but it won't necessarily be better than Xiaomi's implementation.

13. AbhiD

Posts: 801; Member since: Apr 06, 2012

Bumper case on a folding device? Like seriously? LMAO

16. TheOracle1

Posts: 2259; Member since: May 04, 2015

Can't you read? I said a hinged bumper case. The bumper can be made out of aluminum or hard plastic for it to fold with the device. Obviously you can't grasp that concept.

15. midan

Posts: 2871; Member since: Oct 09, 2017

"If you look at the video properly you'll also see that the folded portions switch off so battery drain and accidental touches aren't an issue either." Not sure what video you are looking, but the video in article the screen is on the whole time.

17. TheOracle1

Posts: 2259; Member since: May 04, 2015

The two portions that are folded to the back switch off. Take another look Apple boy.

21. midan

Posts: 2871; Member since: Oct 09, 2017

So you went personal? And you are still wrong, it only switch off for a split of second, propably because that App didn't had anything more to show, so that's why it was black. Some seconds later the two portions are again showing the colorful wallpaper. how you missed that? it shows few seconds and can easily spot even in very small period of time the background turns mirrored image or something. Have you thought getting glasses?

7. Cat97

Posts: 1892; Member since: Mar 02, 2017

The Samsung design uses 50% more screen for the same functionality (you can't use both screens at the same time), while the Xiaomi solution may be less expensive due to less screen, with the huge disadvantage of being scratch-prone especially given that the display is plastic and not (Gorilla) Glass. I actually prefer the Samsung solution, more real-world usability, I would hate to have it scratch.

12. Peaceboy

Posts: 640; Member since: Oct 11, 2018

Gonna wait till apple provide one, and for sure, its gonna be amazing and successful.

19. TheOracle1

Posts: 2259; Member since: May 04, 2015

It probably will be successful. Just be prepared to take out a second mortgage on the house or sell a kidney when they announce the price.

14. Donone41

Posts: 246; Member since: Dec 17, 2014

Yea Samsung should be worried about xiomi's crap. Gimme a break!!

20. Wazupmrg

Posts: 168; Member since: Apr 10, 2017

Of course they don't put apple in the tag line because they know Apple won't have this tech for 5 years.

43. Venkatramanan

Posts: 327; Member since: Aug 15, 2014

I would buy a foldable device if it has windows for ARM.

* Some comments have been hidden, because they don't meet the discussions rules.

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