Remember the days when text messages and Snake on your Nokia 3310 were two of the most exciting things a phone could manage? We do too. Fast forward 15 years and we have in-display fingerprint scanners, bezel-free displays, punch-hole front cameras, plus a whole new take on slider and flip phones.
Flip phones were once slim, compact and hinged devices. Now, flip phones have morphed into foldable phones with actual bendable screens. That tends to bring the potential for huge price tags, though, to get hold of a piece of the magic.
Here are the devices leading the foldable smartphone trend.
Samsung Galaxy Z Flip
- Clamshell foldable design
- 6.7-inch display
- 256GB storage
Not content with one foldable phone, Samsung debuted a second one a year after the first. But it's rather different to the Fold, instead folding down the middle, much like a Samsung version of the Moto Razr.
Powered by Qualcomm's Snapdragon 855+, the 256GB phone is undeniably premium and is available now in black, gold and purple options. The hinge is similar to the existing Galaxy Fold, but Samsung says it's good for over 200,000 folds. You can open the hinge at different angles, with the content adjusting to fit the device. It's around 9cm by 7cm when folded.
- 6.2-inch internal foldable screen, 2.7-inch external display
- Foldable clamshell design with patented hinge mechanism
- Fingerprint scanner in 'chin' section to bottom
- Sub-14mm thickness when folded
Lenovo-owned Motorola has quite literally morphed its 15-year old iconic Razr flip phone into a foldable phone, switching the numerical keyboard for a flexible OLED screen display that folds into an almost-square when you shut the phone, with a second Quick View display to the front.
The device was unveiled on 13 November 2019 and has now shipped. The Razr features a glass and stainless steel construction, a fingerprint scanner in the chin section at the bottom, and it's around 14mm thick when folded. The main screen is 6.2-inches, made from Plastic OLED so it can fold, while the second screen on the front is a fixed 2.7-inch panel for glancing at notifications.
Under the hood, you'll find a Qualcomm Snapdragon 710 processor, coupled with 6GB of RAM, 128GB of storage and a 2,510mAh battery. There is a 16-megapixel camera that flips to be a selfie and main camera and there is a 5-megapixel internal camera for face unlock and attentive display features.
Samsung Galaxy Fold
- Exterior screen: 4.5-inch, 1680 x 720 pixels, Dynamic AMOLED
- Interior screen: 7.3-inch, 2152 x 1536 pixels, Super AMOLED
- 7nm 64-bit octa-core processor, 12GB RAM, 512GB storage
- 4,380mAh battery capacity
A "fixed" version of the device is now available to buy - it was the first true foldable on the market - and you can read all about what Samsung changed between the first- and second-generation of the device in our separate feature.
We found its design to be largely successful, marrying a 4.5-inch external screen on the outside, with a 7.3-inch folding screen on the inside. Sure, the external could fill more space in the frame, but we're sure a new generation will make that even better.
It features a 7nm Exynos chip, coupled with 12GB of RAM and 512GB of storage (so no need for microSD!). There are six cameras to ensure every angle is covered, while the software allows for three-app multi-tasking when open on the larger display.
Huawei Mate X
- 6.6-inch front screen, unfolds into 8-inch OLED tablet
- 4,500mAh battery with 55W fast-charging
- Kirin 980 chipset and 5G modem
- Leica quad camera
Huawei stole the show at Mobile World Congress 2019, unveiling its take on a folding phone in the Mate X. Unlike the Moto Razr and the Samsung Fold, the X has its screen on the exterior fold - presented as a 6.6-inch main screen and elongated 6.38-inch screen on the rear. Unfolded, the two present as an 8-inch tablet form. It's seamless, with no separation, no kinks or creases - but it might struggle with scratches.
The Mate X still didn't make it to market outside China amid the troubles Huawei is facing with its US trade ban. Although this gave Samsung more leeway to get a refreshed Galaxy Fold on the shelves, Huawei also took the opportunity to rethink the device, emerging with the Mate Xs, using the more recent Kirin 990 chipset and redesigning the hinge.
- 7.8-inch screen folds in half
- Qualcomm SD855, 6/8GB RAM
Royole beat everyone to the punch, announcing the first commercially-available smartphone with a flexible display back at CES 2019 - even if it was only available in China as a developer handset.
The FlexPai turns from a 7.8-inch tablet into a smartphone by folding in half. It's got all the power of a typical flagship smartphone but it's a bulky bit of kit when folded and it doesn't fold flat, leaving a nice big air gap next to the non-existent hinge. It also starts at £1209/$1300.
We know a FlexPai 2 is coming but it was due to happen at the cancelled Mobile World Congress 2020. We're awaiting details of the re-launch.
LG V50 ThinQ and G8X ThinQ Dual-Screen
- Not ruled out foldable device
LG announced the V50 ThinQ at Mobile World Congress 2019, followed by the G8X ThinQ at IFA 2019, but neither are a foldable phone. Instead, the smartphones have a Dual Screen accessory that allows users to experience two screens together - but they can be detached from each other.
The company hasn't completely ruled out making a foldable phone though. It told us in our pre-MWC 2019 briefing that a foldable phone doesn't make business sense just yet, but that if things change in the future then it's something it might consider. The company also patented a Z-folding device with two folds so who knows what LG has planned.