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

Phones with flexible screens are all the rage. Here are the companies that have jumped onto the novel design trend.

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The new foldable Galaxy Z Flip.

Angela Lang/CNET

Although Samsung's newest Galaxy Z Flip foldable phone is available for preorder, you'll be hard pressed to nab a device of your own due to it quickly selling out online. But the Z Flip isn't the only foldable device around. Motorola also launched one by rebooting its iconic Razr phone. Not only do both phones have a foldable screen but they also have slim, compact bodies --  a radical departure from the big-screen foldable phones we've seen prior, such as 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 Z Flip and Fold: Available now

Available for $1,380 and £1,300 (about AU$2,500), the Galaxy Z Flip features a clamshell design, a 6.7-inch display and dual 12-megapixel rear cameras. It is the company's second foldable phone after the $2,000 Galaxy Fold. That phone 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 a triple-camera setup 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. 

The Z Flip and Fold may not be the only two foldable phones from Samsung. The company is said to be developing another one, according to Bloomberg. Citing people familiar with the company's plans, Bloomberg reported that the other one may fold inward instead of outward like the Fold.

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Motorola Razr: Available now

The Motorola Razr is available on US carrier Verizon for $1,499 (about £1,170 or AU$2,185 converted). Based on the original 2004 device (which gained an iconic status for its sleek design, thin profile and various color options at the time), the 2020 Razr has a nostalgia-inducing "flip" phone design, a 6.2-inch screen, Android 9, a 16-megapixel camera and a fingerprint reader. 

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

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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 launch, the phone was finally released in October 2019, but only in China for now. Similar to the Galaxy Fold, which launched around the same time, 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.

Due to ongoing security concerns from the US government, it is unlikely that the Mate X will ever come to the US. Huawei remains the world's top telecom supplier, however, and its devices are still available in more than 170 countries around the world, according to a Huawei spokesperson.

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Royole FlexPai 2: Confirmed

Royale, a startup headquartered in Fremont, California, planned to announced the successor of its first Royole FlexPai at MWC 2020. However, due to health concerns of the coronavirus outbreak, the show was canceled and the future of the FlexPai 2 is up in the air.

The original FlexPai had a 7.8-inch AMOLED screen, ran an OS called Water that was layered on top of Android 9 and featured two cameras. It started at $1,318 and £1,209 (about AU$2,180 converted) and was rough around the edges when we first got our hands on it. However, because it was one of the first foldable phones announced, it gave us an early glimpse of what the future of foldable phones would hold.

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TCL: Confirmed, expected in 2020

Mostly known for its affordable televisions, Chinese tech company TCL is working on a number of foldable devices, which include two tablets (one of which folds three times!), 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 Motorola Razr and both foldable Galaxy phones.

The Xiaomi Dual Flex or Mix Flex.

Xiaomi

Xiaomi Dual Flex or Mix Flex: Confirmed

In January 2019, Chinese phone maker Xiaomi introduced its foldable phone on the social media platform Weibo. Unlike other 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 device launched at $449 (£360 and AU$643, converted), but has now been discounted for $299. It's 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.

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Apple: Rumored, with patent application

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The latest 2020 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 nine years ago, in 2011. Since then, rumors of a flexible iPhone reignite with every new updated document -- filed in 20142016 and 2017 and 2019.

According to the newest filings, the patent is for "electronic devices with flexible displays and hinges." 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.

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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 2019 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 supports 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 three phones that come with a second-screen attachment: the LG V60 ThinQ, the LG G8X and the LG V50.

Unfortunately, neither of these phones are flexible. Back in 2014, LG did launch the G Flex, a phone with a curved screen. There were at CES 2019that LG would introduce a flexible phone, but that turned out to be a false alarm. Instead, it showed off a rollable LG TV that later went on sale.

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 Jan. 28, 2019 and updated with new information.