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Top foldable phones: Motorola Razr, Galaxy Fold, Huawei Mate X and more

With Motorola's new Razr phone reboot, phones with flexible screens are all the rage. Here are other companies that still have big plans for foldable phones.

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The new foldable Motorola Razr.

Angela Lang/CNET

On Nov. 14, Motorola launched the reboot of its iconic Razr phone, and despite much anticipation and hype, the device did not disappoint. Flaunting a new flexible screen while retaining its signature slim profile, the $1,500 device packs the most intriguing phone trend today in a compact body -- a radical departure from the big-screen foldable phones we've seen so far like the Galaxy Fold and Huawei Mate X.

Foldable phones are poised to transform the tech industry over the next five years, along with 5G. In addition to Motorola, Samsung and Huawei, other phone makers have either announced foldable phones or are rumored to have one in the works. These foldable phones will just hint at what's to come, as the devices become thinner, do a better job of managing battery life and let mobile apps take advantage of different display sizes. All of this will develop with the help of Google too, which has committed to providing Android support for foldable designs. (Given some of its recent patent filings, it may even release a foldable phone of its own.)  

In short, prepare to see more foldable phones in the near future. Here are the brands that have announced plans, filed for a patent or are rumored to be joining the foldable craze.

Samsung Galaxy Fold: Available now

Available for around $2,000, the Galaxy Fold features a secondary 4.6-inch display that serves as its "cover." When you're ready for something bigger, the Fold opens up like a book to a 7.3-inch tablet. The Fold also has six cameras. On the back, there's the same triple-camera setup as the Galaxy S10 and on the front a single 10-megapixel camera. In tablet form, there are two additional cameras inside: a selfie camera and an 8-megapixel depth camera. 

As perhaps the most well-known foldable phone, the Fold has been through its share of ups and down. When preorders began back in April, it quickly sold out on the first day. Soon after, Samsung hit a snag when a handful of tech reporters documented issues like screen breakages, flickering and, bulging with their preproduction review units. After months of delay and a redesign, Samsung finally released the Fold in September. (For more information, read CNET's Galaxy Fold FAQ.) And just for funsies, we put the finalized phone through stress test of over a hundred thousand folds.

The Fold may not be the only foldable phone from Samsung. The company is said to be developing two more foldable phones, according to Bloomberg. Citing people familiar with the company's plans, Bloomberg reported that one phone will fold vertically, while the other will fold inward instead of outward like the Fold. With this Galaxy Fold snafu, however, plans may change for Samsung.  

Now playing: Watch this: Watch Samsung's Galaxy Fold stress test
1:02

Motorola Razr: Preorders Dec. 26, on sale Jan. 9, 2020

Since its original launch in 2004, the beloved Razr phone has gained iconic status for its sleek design, thin profile and various color options at the time. When Lenovo acquired Motorola in 2014, rumors that Motorola would release a foldable Razr phone began in December 2017, when a patent application file went public. Later, a company exec at Motorola confirmed something was coming down the pike.

Fast forward to November 2019 and indeed, Motorola rebooted the Razr line. The phone is available on US carrier Verizon and will ship out "early 2020." The nostalgia-inducing "flip" phone features a 6.2-inch screen, Android 9 Pie, a 16-megapixel camera and a fingerprint reader.

Read more: The inside story behind the new foldable Motorola Razr

Now playing: Watch this: Motorola Razr vs. Galaxy Fold: Foldable phone specs compared
11:13

Huawei Mate X: Available now in China only

Jumping on the trends of foldable phones and 5G, Huawei's's Mate X has both. It has a 6.6-inch display when folded closed and an 8-inch OLED screen when you flip it open. And it features 5G connectivity that's said to be four times faster than 4G, a 4,500-mAh battery and three rear cameras.

After a delayed May launch, the phone was finally released in October, but only in China for now. Similar to the Fold, the Mate X is very pricey at 2,299 euros, or about $2,600, £2,000 or AU$3,660. However, at its MWC 2019 keynote back when Huawei first announced the phone, the company hinted that cheaper models may be on the way.

It's unlikely that the Mate X will ever come to the US. Citing a security threat to the Department of Defense, the US government banned the sale of Huawei phones on US military bases. Retail giant Best Buy stopped selling Huawei phones in March 2018, and Huawei's CFO was arrested in Canada  at the request of the US, an act her father said was politically motivated. Huawei devices are still available in more than 170 countries around the world, however, according to a Huawei spokesperson.

Now playing: Watch this: Huawei Mate X is a foldable phone with 5G
2:43

Royole FlexPai: Available now

Announced in October 2018, the Royole FlexPai has a 7.8-inch AMOLED screen, runs an OS called Water that's layered on top of Google Android 9.0 and features two cameras. Though the FlexPai was rough around the edges when we first got our hands on it, it gave us one of the first solid glimpses of what the future of foldable phones will hold, as it was the first flexible phone to debut.

Developed by a startup headquartered in Fremont, California, the phone is also very expensive. You'll pay $1,318 (£1,209) for the 6GB of RAM and 128GB variant, and it's $1,469 (£1,349) for the 8GB of RAM and 256GB version. (Australian prices weren't released, but they convert to about AU$2,180 and AU$2,440, respectively.) 

Now playing: Watch this: Royole FlexPai is a foldable phone you can actually buy
1:56

TCL: Confirmed, expected in 2020

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One of TCL's upcoming foldable devices. This is a 10-inch tablet that folds into thirds.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Mostly known for its affordable televisions, Chinese tech company TCL is working on a number of foldable devices, which include two tablets, two phones and a cufflike phone you wear around your wrist. Despite it not being a household name in the US, you may know TCL better through other brands it owns, namely BlackBerry, Alcatel and Palm.

The upcoming devices all have flexble AMOLED displays that can bend because of what TCL calls a DragonHinge. Patented by the company, the hinge enables the screens to fold both inward and outward. TCL estimates that its first foldable phone will be available in 2020 and that it could cost less than $1,000 -- making it significantly cheaper than the Galaxy Fold.

The Xiaomi Dual Flex or Mix Flex.

Xiaomi

Xiaomi Dual Flex or Mix Flex: Confirmed

In January, Chinese phone maker Xiaomi introduced its new foldable phone on the social media platform Weibo. Unlike previous phones we've seen, which have only one bend down the middle, Xiaomi's phone folds down into thirds, with both sides folding down.

Xiaomi co-founder and President Bin Lin said this design is "practical and beautiful" and that it "perfectly merges the experience of a tablet and a phone." Specs and pricing information weren't given, but Xiaomi is currently taking votes on two possible names: the Dual Flex or the Mix Flex. 

Nubia Alpha: Available now

Nubia, an associate company of Chinese phone-maker ZTE, took the concept of a foldable phone one step further with its Nubia Alpha. The $449 Alpha (£360 and AU$643, converted) is unique in that it's a phone that wraps around a user's wrist, similar to a smartwatch. It features a flexible 4.01-inch display, gesture controls and a water-resistant design. Its 5-megapixel camera can also record 10-second videos. However, it's missing a lot of app support and it doesn't have Instagram, Google Maps or an internet browser.

This isn't the first time we've seen a phone that looks like the Alpha. In 2016, Lenovo had a concept device called the CPlus, which had a 4.26-inch display that you bent over your wrist. Unlike the CPlus, the Alpha is a real device you can get now.

Now playing: Watch this: Nubia Alpha wearable smartphone review
4:01

Apple: Rumored, with patent application

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An updated patent by Apple shows various ways it could use a flexible or folding display.

Apple/USPTO

In February, Apple once again updated its patent application for a clamshell phone with a foldable display and body. The filings have been ongoing since Apple's first one eight years ago, in 2011. Since then, rumors of a flexible iPhone reignite with every new updated document -- filed in 20142016 and 2017.

According to the filings, the phone "may have a flexible portion that allows the device to be folded." But in keeping with its usual style, Apple has remained mum on details. So far, nothing has come to fruition with any of these patents in the public eye, and there hasn't been any info on what this device might be (and if it will even be a phone at all) or a timeline for when to expect such products.

Now playing: Watch this: Will Apple jump on the foldable phone trend?
6:37

Google: Prototyping, with patent application

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Google's patent application included several sketches of a potential foldable device.

Google

Back in December 2018, tech giant Google filed a patent application for a foldable device. The patent is for a "foldable display of a computing device and includes a back stiffening layer, a transparent front-plate layer, a transparent cover window layer and an OLED display layer disposed between the back stiffening layer and the transparent frontplate layer." 

Fast-forward later to May when Google then confirmed that it's been prototyping the folding technology, but didn't see a clear use case for foldable screens yet. In addition, Google plans to support foldable phones with its Android OS platform to develop the technology from the software side as well.

Lenovo's CPlus concept phone.

Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

Lenovo: Rumored, with patent application

As mentioned before, in 2016, Lenovo introduced the CPlus concept phone, which could bend and wrap around your wrist like the Nubia Alpha. While it was just a concept phone back then, Lenovo seems to have been making progress toward releasing a real foldable phone to the masses. In July 2018 it filed a patent application for a "portable information device" with a "foldable configuration."

LG: Rumored

LG doesn't have any foldable phones to announce yet, but we do know it's interested in the design. So far it released two phones that come with a second-screen attachment: the LG V50 and the LG G8X ThinQ.

Unfortunately, neither of these two phones is flexible. Back in 2014, LG did launch the G Flex, a phone with a curved screen. More recently at CES 2019, there were rumors that LG would introduce a flexible phone, but that turned out to be a false alarm. Instead, it showed off a rollable LG TV that will be on sale later this year.  

We know that LG has the technology in the works for a flexible phone, and the company is said to be working on one. But for now, these two-screen accessories will have to do.

Originally published earlier this year and updated with new information.