Foldable phones could soon be back in the limelight

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Foldable Phones had a breakthrough in 2019 as the first models Samsung, Huawei and Motorola began to come onto the market. With Samsung, Motorola and Google reportedly developing new flexible phones, another milestone could be coming soon.

Samsung’s next foldable phones could be just around the corner. The tech giant is hosting its next Unpacked event on August 10thwhere the Galaxy Z Flip 4 and Galaxy Z Fold 4 are rumored to be released. This is assuming Samsung follows its previous launch pattern, which included announcing the Galaxy Z Flip 5G in summer 2020 and Z Flip 3 and Z Fold 3 in August 2021.

Foldable phone sales are growing, but they’re nowhere near as ubiquitous as standard phones. According to this, deliveries of foldable smartphones are expected to have increased by 264.3% in 2021 compared to 2020 International Data Corporation. But IDC estimates that only 7.1 million foldable phones shipped in all of 2021, compared to 362.4 million phones shipped the fourth quarter of last year.

Here’s a look at the rumored foldable phones from Samsung, Motorola, and others that are said to be in the works.

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Samsung Z fold 3

Last year’s Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4

Samsung’s phone-tablet hybrid is reportedly set to get an upgrade this year. Based on the leaks and rumors that have surfaced so far, it looks like the Galaxy Z Fold 4 will be a moderately upgraded version of the current one Z fold 3. According to the prolific leaker, it could have a slimmer design thanks to a slimmer hinge ice universeas well as an improved camera on par with that of Galaxy S22. Qualcomm’s recently announced Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 is expected to power the device, the source also claims.

But what I really hope for the Galaxy Z Fold 4 is a cheaper price point. The current version retails for $1,800 with no trade-ins, making it one of the most expensive phones out there. But display analyst Ross Young, CEO of Display Supply Chain Consultants, speculated Samsung’s next-gen foldable devices are getting a price cut.

Samsung usually unveils its new foldable phones in August, so we expect to hear more soon. Check out our full story to learn more about what to expect the Galaxy Z Fold 4.

Samsung Z Flip 3

Samsung’s Galaxy Z Flip 3 of the current generation.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Samsung Galaxy ZFlip 4

Samsung is also expected to launch a new version of its clamshell, Flip phone style Galaxy Z Flip this year. Much like the rumors about the Z Fold 4, leaks about the Z Flip 4 suggest it will be a refresh of the current model rather than a dramatic change.

The Z Flip 4 is expected to get a larger cover display according to youngthe display analyst and Yogesh Brar, a writer for website 91mobiles, who claims to have gotten a full list of the Z Flip 4’s specs. An upgrade like this would make it easier to check the time and notifications at a glance without flipping open the phone.

We won’t know for sure until Samsung announces a new version of the Z Flip, which will likely happen in August. Check out our full story to learn more about what we might see in the Z flip 4.

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Samsung's concept tablet Flex S was presented at CES 2022

Samsung Display unveiled several foldable concepts at CES 2022, including the Flex S tablet shown here.

Samsung

A new Samsung Foldable

But perhaps more exciting is the idea that Samsung could soon unveil an entirely new breed of foldable phones. In a tweet that appears to have been deleted, Ice Universe reports previously said Samsung could introduce a third type of foldable device this year. Young also got involved to say that a sliding Samsung phone was planned for 2022 but has been pushed back further.

When Samsung plans to launch a new-style foldable, it certainly has plenty of ideas to choose from. The Korean tech giant introduced itself several new concepts at CES 2022 in January, including phones with a three-fold screen and a sliding display. But Samsung hasn’t given any indication that it plans to launch a new breed of foldable device in the near future, so we have to assume its concepts are just ideas for now.

motorola razr

The Motorola Razr 2020

Angela Lang/CNET

Motorola Razr 2022

It looks like Motorola is preparing its iconic Razr for another comeback. The company announced a new version of its Razr clamshell phone with a dual camera, a larger cover display and a Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 processor in a series of posts on the Chinese social network Weibo, as GSM arena sighted. Previous rumors have suggested that the next Razr could have a cheaper price, a new pill-shaped dual camera and Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor, according to Leaks well-known leaker Steve Hemmerstoffer (above CompareDial) and Evan Blass (published on 91mobile phones).

We ended up liking it the Razr 2020 for its refined design and improved battery life. But CNET reviewer Patrick Holland pointed out that the phone’s $1,400 price tag at the time and other shortcomings, like the camera’s poor low-light performance, kept it from being as good as it could be. Hopefully Motorola will have addressed those concerns if the rumored third-gen Razr turns out to be real.

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Foldable phone sketch patented by Google

An image from a Google patent application for a foldable phone.

Google

Google Pixel Fold (or Pixel Notepad)

Google could be the next big tech company to jump on the foldable phone bandwagon. The company is reportedly working on a foldable Pixel that could have a shape similar to Oppo’s Find N and a price lower than the Galaxy Z Fold 3, according to 9to5Google. The outlet also says the phone could be called the Pixel NotePad, but warns its camera could be a step below that of the Pixel 6.

Google has yet to say a word about plans to release a foldable phone. We also didn’t see any evidence of a foldable Pixel at Google I/O, the company’s annual developer conference where it sometimes showcases new tech concepts. But given Google’s recent focus on hardware – which was emphasized at I/O by Announcing six new gadgets — it wouldn’t be surprising if the company experimented with foldable devices.

If Google has a foldable phone in the works, it’s unclear when it will launch. Korean news site the electr said Google had previously planned to announce the device in Q4 2022, but the company has reportedly delayed the launch.

TCL Foldable Phone

TCL’s foldable phone concept.

Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

A foldable phone from TCL

TCL scrapped plans to release a clamshell-style foldable Phone in 2021, but it’s not giving up just yet. The Chinese electronics manufacturer presented itself two new concepts Earlier this year for phones with rollable and foldable screens. One concept has a screen that bends in and out, while the other can fold and expand the size of its screen.

TCL hasn’t said when it plans to release a foldable phone. But if and when it does, the company plans to keep the price at $700 or less, TCL previously told CNET. It will be a challenge to match that price point, but hopefully it will motivate other phone makers to make their foldable devices similarly affordable.

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Foldable iPhone concept art from Apple

A fictional concept showing what a foldable iPhone could look like, by YouTuber ConceptsiPhone.

ConceptsiPhone

A foldable iPhone

Apple is one of the few major smartphone makers that hasn’t released a foldable phone yet, and it’s unclear if it ever will. But rumors of an iPhone with a bendable display have been circulating for years, fueling speculation. If Apple is working on a foldable iPhone, it probably won’t release the device for several years. Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman wrote this in his Power On newsletter in 2021 a foldable iPhone is two to three years away. Display supply chain analyst Young also said in February that Apple’s foldable iPhone would be delayed until 2025, according to Apple 9to5Mac.

Waiting a few years for the first foldable device to hit the market might not be a bad idea. Foldable phones are expected account for 1.8% of the total smartphone market by 2025, up from 0.5% in 2021, according to IDC. So does the market research firm says foldable are expected to take over a third of the premium Android phone market.

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