IFA 2019, Only Samsung Showed Up with a Foldable
September 16, 2019
At IFA 2019, Huawei, LG and TCL cooled their efforts on the foldable flagship race in various different ways. While Samsung saw IFA as the venue to show the world how it's attempted to mitigate the problems with a folding screen, most other players are sitting out the hype. LG is staying far away from folding screens, as it announced the LG G8X ThinQ in Berlin, where it opted to use two separate 6.4-inch OLED panels for its dual-screen flagship. LG, ZTE and many others attempt this format already, and with little success.
The G8X ThinQ is different enough that it might have a shot at doing well, though. It's actually a regular single-display smartphone that slots into a case with a screen on the inside of the cover. Yep, nothing tremendously impressive here -- many of us were expecting the display to actually be part of the phone. But this implementation at least seems less likely to break and is probably easier to mass produce, which hopefully means cheaper prices. LG already did this with the V50 ThinQ Dual Screen, which the company says has sold 500,000 units since its April launch. LG believes so strongly in its implementation for dual-screen phones that it described this as "The Proven Form Factor" in its presentation to media for the G8X ThinQ. Meanwhile, TCL is adopting a wait-and-see approach before it properly enters the foldable fray. As an established TV maker, the Chinese company has plenty of experience in making experimental screens, and it's shown off foldable prototypes at every major event since the beginning of the year. TCL showed their new Butterfly hinge design where the screen can fold inwards without leaving a gap between the two sides, compared to the Galaxy Fold, which leaves a noticeable space between the two halves of the folded display.
But TCL doesn't have an actual device to announce yet. The company's chief marketing officer Stefan Streit said it is committed to foldables as a long-term strategy. TCL's products are typically lower priced than the competition, which might explain why it isn't jumping into the foldable pool headfirst. At IFA, the company unveiled the Plex, its first major smartphone outside of China, which offers modern features for a surprisingly low 329 Euros. Huawei’s CEO, Richard Yu told reporters in Berlin that the company's been ready to sell the flagship for the last month, but postponed retail availability to give developers time to optimize their apps for the bigger screen. Yu said the delay was also partly to wait on more widespread deployment of 5G networks so the Mate X's Balong 5G modem would actually be useful. There were also some challenges in manufacturing the foldable display at volume, according to the chief executive. Yu said he has been using his Mate X for seven months now, and the unit he toted at the closed-door meeting looked like it was functioning well. Since the Mate X folds outwards and leaves the screen exposed, there is concern around its durability. Yu said Huawei may start selling the foldable in October, though he didn't actually commit to that timeframe. He also said that the company might even explore making a version of the Mate X with the just-announced Kirin 990 5G chipset to bring more power.
Huawei’s President Yu said the Mate X was ready and he had been personally using it for months, but they had to do “just a little more testing” to avoid the calamity that Samsung encountered with the Fold. Could the expected October release be in jeopardy?