Motorola’s RAZR is returning as a $1,500 folding smartphone
The original RAZR was one of the most iconic cellphones ever made, and it seems that Motorola’s parent company Lenovo is looking to cash in on that branding with an updated foldable phone (similar to the one that Samsung has teased for later this year). Per the WSJ, the new RAZR will be exclusive to Verizon in the US with a planned February launch, although the device is still in testing and details have yet to be finalized.
Also unknown is nearly any concrete information about the phone. There’s no word yet on things like screen size, specifications, or even form factor. Will the revived RAZR just borrow the name but use a more traditional landscape folding display? Will Lenovo follow the original RAZR design and have some sort of super long vertically folding screen?
This isn’t the first time that the RAZR brand has seen an attempted resurrection, either: in 2011 and 2012, Motorola also teamed up with Verizon (it seems to really like the RAZR name) for a series of Droid RAZR devices, which tried to cash in on the goodwill of RAZR devices, albeit without any of the flip phone design that was part of the original charm.
That said, dragging old smartphone designs to the present in updated forms is starting to become a trend. The HMD-owned iteration of Nokia has practically made a cottage industry of it with rereleases of the Nokia 3310 and Nokia 8110, but those devices were meant to be fun, nostalgic novelties, not flagship competitors.
According to the WSJ report, Lenovo is hoping to manufacture over 200,000 of the new RAZRs, which may seem optimistic for a $1,500 luxury smartphone. But considering that the (admittedly much cheaper) RAZR V3 model sold 130 million units over its lifespan, if lightning does manage to strike twice, that goal might not be so hard to hit.
Samsung might have confirmed the launch date for its first foldable smartphone
Following months of leaks and speculation, Samsung finally announced last week that it will hold its latest Unpacked event on Wednesday, February 20th in San Francisco, California. The presence of the number 10 on the invitation all but confirmed that the Galaxy S10 will make its debut on the 20th, but we still weren’t totally confident that Samsung would bring its foldable phone to the event as well. But Samsung might have just removed all doubt.
In a post on its Newsroom site over the weekend, Samsung shared a series of photographs taken at the Place de la Concorde in Paris of several new billboards the company recently installed. The Hanegul text reads “미래를 펼치다” and “이월 이십일,” which translates to “The future unfolds” and “February twentieth.”
Although we already expected the Galaxy Fold (or whatever Samsung ends up calling it) to make an appearance at the event, the message on the billboard — plus Samsung’s decision to dedicate an entire Newsroom post to it — certainly takes some of the guesswork out of the process. In all likelihood, the device that we saw momentarily at Samsung’s developer conference late last year will be unveiled in full on February 20th:
Samsung has reiterated on numerous occasions that it plans to launch its foldable smartphone in the first half of the year. If the phone is indeed going to be shown off alongside the Galaxy S10, there’s a chance that it will be available on store shelves at the same time as well — presumably in April. According to recent reports, Samsung is still trying to settle on a name for the device: Galaxy F, Fold, or Flex. Whatever it’s called, it’s going to be pricey.
Royole could be the first company to release a foldable smartphone
Phones with foldable screens have felt like they’re on the cusp of arriving for years, but outside of a couple of concept designs and trailers, we have yet to see one receive a proper release. However, Royole Corporation could be about to win the race with the FlexPai, a tablet-sized phone that can be bent into a shape the size of a small paperback book.
Before you get your hopes up that the era of foldable smartphones is finally upon us, you should watch the below video featuring the device. It looks early, to say the very least. For one thing, the phone doesn’t fold flat, so it ends up pretty bulky when packed away. The software also appears to get confused when the phone’s screen is bent, with the display flashing a couple of times before picking an orientation.
Internally, the device features a Snapdragon 8-series chipset, and ITHome (via GizmoChina) suggests prices will start at ¥8,999 (around $1,290) for a model equipped with 6GB of RAM. Pre-orders will open on October 31st, with orders planning to ship in December.
Royole’s FlexPai is due to have some pretty serious competition very soon. Samsung’s foldable smartphone is set to be making an appearance next week at its yearly developer conference, and both LG and Huawei are reportedly developing foldable handsets of their own. It really feels like we’re on the cusp of these devices actually releasing, but then, it’s felt like that for a while.
Move over bezel-less displays: Samsung, LG set sights on foldable smartphones for 2019
Smartphones these days don full screen, almost bezel-less displays with multiple cameras, powerful processors and bigger batteries.
Though the innovation may be at its peak, individual components aren’t available to their full capabilities in smartphones as of now. Companies are working on making faster processors that do not heat the device, bigger batteries which have a thin form factor, etc.
What seems to be an upgrade in order to achieve these requirements is introduction of foldable smartphones. Multiple Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) are in works to introduce foldable smartphones and consumers may be able to buy the new tech this year.
Samsung confirmed that it will launch a foldable smartphone in 2019. In its launch event last year in November, the company showcased a tablet-sized screen which can be folded into a smartphone.
Samsung called it ‘Infinity Flex Display’. No details were given during the event except that the main screen is a 7.3-inch display which can be folded to a candy-bar sized smartphone with a screen on 4.6-inches. The phone is tipped to be called as the Samsung Galaxy X or Galaxy F and the rumour mill states that it will be priced around $1400.
LG, that doesn't like to be behind innovation and has been competing with Samsung in the display department, had also teased a foldable smartphone last year. The company filed a patent showing a “mobile phone with a flexible display which can be folded in half” .
LG Mobile CEO, Hwang Jeong-hwan told Korean news site Yonhap: “We are working hard with our partners on various obstacles that can occur while folding and unfolding.” On being asked about the launch date, he said the company will launch the device when they can provide enough customer value rather than being the first in the world.
A legendary smartphone manufacturer once upon a time, Nokia had filed a patent in December 2013, which was granted last year. The patent hints that Nokia will launch a foldable display smartphone this year. No details are available on the size of the display or any other specifications.
Huawei CEO, Richard Yu, confirmed in 2017 that the company will launch a foldable smartphone this year. He had said that the company is working on a flexible smartphone prototype and similar patent diagrams appeared online in March 2018. The patent document reads a device simply as “foldable smartphone”, but show a book-like phone that can be opened up to create a larger tablet with a hinge connecting each of the two screens.
Is this what Apple’s first foldable phone will look like?
Samsung has a huge year ahead when it comes to new smartphone launches, as the company is expected to unveil the Galaxy S10 and Galaxy F on February 20th. The Galaxy S10 series will be the main moneymaker for the company this year, but the foldable phone is also essential for the company, considering all the hype around it right now. We’ve got billboards in Paris, as well as reports from Korea driving home the same point, that the Galaxy F — commercial name pending — is a breakthrough device, one that signals Samsung isn’t done innovating in the mobile landscape. Samsung, of course, wants to set the tone when it comes to new smartphone form factors, just as it did with the Note series years ago.
But this time around, competitors will be quick to launch foldable devices of their own, with Apple, Microsoft, Huawei, LG, and Xiaomi being a few of the companies rumored to be developing such devices. Apple is the most secretive of the bunch, and we have no idea when a foldable iPhone will be ready for mass consumption. 2019 iPhones are largely expected to resemble last year’s models when it comes to overall design, and a new iPhone design isn’t expected until 2020. A report did say that the first foldable iPhone will launch next year… but we may already have an idea of what Apple’s foldable phone could look like.
All the way back in 2013, more than a year before Apple launched the bigger iPhones that fans had been craving, an Apple patent came to light showing a strange iPhone design, one that heralded several changes that were in the works for Apple’s flagship smartphone.
Known as Apple’s “wraparound iPhone,” the phone in the following image shows several design features that Apple has already adopted. The phone has an edge-to-edge display (iPhone X), no home button (iPhone X), no headphone jack (iPhone 7), and a set of virtual volume buttons (iPhone 6s’s 3D Touch, but also iPhone X’s home button).
The one thing that’s missing is the actual wraparound screen, a display that wraps around the back of the phone. Apple’s wraparound iPhone surfaces now and then, but I always thought the patent was more about the technologies that such a device would require, like in-display buttons, than the actual wraparound screen. I don’t think that a wraparound display would be useful, even though a rear-facing screen might have some uses. Apple certainly thinks the back of a phone should be put to good use — from the patent:
In the last few years the functionality of portable electronic devices has increased exponentially. Further improvements be realized by investigating ways to maximize the utility of unused portions of these devices. Form factor is an interesting area for development given that a large majority of portable electronic devices have settled into a standard form factor; namely a flat planar form factor with a display on one side and an opaque housing which contains the electrical components covering the rear surface of the device. Unfortunately, this popular form factor, leaves the sides and rear surfaces of the device unused or at best configured with buttons and switches with fixed location and functionality. Since many of these buttons and switches have fixed functionality they cannot always be incorporated into third-party applications.
But recent developments made me reconsider this patent. Perhaps Apple hid the foldable iPhone design in plain sight all along.
Since I did mention Samsung’s hype about its foldable handset, I’ll point out a quote from a Korea Herald report about Samsung’s foldable phones endeavors:
Compared to the wrap-around display phone — which Apple seems to be looking into as one possible design for its foldable model — [Samsung Design Innovation Center head Federico Casalegno] said Samsung’s in-folding display phone could provide better experiences for users in terms of design.
The report relays statements made by Casalegno at a press event last week, but what’s curious is that Samsung seems to know what design Apple has chosen for its foldable iPhone. It’s unclear where Samsung got its information from. A few years ago, we learned that Apple teamed up with LG to create a secret smartphone design, one that Samsung could not copy. At the time, it was believed that Apple was developing foldable screens with LG’s display arm. LG, of course, is rumored to be working on foldable phones of its own.
In addition to this remark from Samsung, we also have one other interesting development that’s worth revisiting. A few weeks ago, well-known leaker Evan Blass posted the following video:
Can't speak to the authenticity of this video or device, but it's allegedly made by Xiaomi, I'm told. Hot new phone, or gadget porn deepfake? pic.twitter.com/qwFogWiE2F
At the time, I said the foldable smartphone in the video looks a lot better than the Galaxy F. The interface seemed quite responsive, and the UI was quick to transition between tablet and smartphone mode. But the second I saw the person in the video folding the left and right sides of the display behind the middle part, which stayed active, I immediately thought about Apple’s wraparound iPhone patent.
Considering all the iPhone technologies Apple has unveiled since 2013, such a design for a foldable iPhone would make plenty of sense. The phone would have an all-screen design, with or without a notch. The display would extend from corner to corner, and the phone would not have any physical home button or headphone jack. A variation of 3D Touch could help Apple place volume controls on the sides that would adapt depending on whether the phone is used in tablet or phone form.
That said, this is just speculation at this point, and there are plenty of things to iron out before any smartphone maker launches such a device. Durability is one thing to take into account, for example. A foldable phone with a wraparound design would have all sides of the screen exposed at all times.
Blass wasn’t able to confirm whether Xiaomi is making a phone like the one in the clip above. But if someone made that foldable phone prototype, it means that we might see such devices in stores in the coming months or years — assuming, of course, the phone in the video is an actual gadget, not a digital render.
Xiaomi is already rumored to be working on foldable devices of its own, and Chinese display giant BOE may be the company that will provide bendable displays to local device makers. Reports said last year that Huawei would work with BOE on its first ever foldable handset, a device that may be introduced as soon as late February, at MWC. If it sounds familiar to Apple fans, BOE is also a company that has been vying for iPhone X display orders, according to recent reports. In other words, Apple is likely aware of all the display prototypes BOE may be developing, including foldable screens, in addition to display prototypes from other big names in the industry, including Samsung Display, LG Display, and others.
Edited by DACH, 17 January 2019 - 11:35 PM.