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Qualcomm says foldable smartphones will get cheaper, but not this year

Foldable phones like Galaxy Fold, Mate X, and Motorola Razr are available in some markets already. This year, we could see more such foldable phones from companies like Samsung, Huawei and even Xiaomi.

Written by Anuj Bhatia | New Delhi |
Updated: January 25, 2020 1:35:38 pm
Foldable phones Foldable phones will get cheaper, but not this year: Qualcomm (Image: Anuj Bhatia/ Indian Express)

You will have to wait for affordable foldable devices, but they will come for sure. This is what Kedar Kondap, Qualcomm vice-president of product management, indicated to, adding that consumers can expect foldable smartphones with mid-range prices in the future, but not this year.

“There are display vendors who are trying to make sure these form factors are available pretty ubiquitously over time,” Kondap said on the sidelines of the launch of Qualcomm’s new processors in New Delhi. “It might take some time.”

Kondap doesn’t think foldable phones have matured enough to hit an affordable price yet. In fact, he also goes on to say that smartphones with folding screens will not make the traditional phone form factor redundant, at least in the near future. Instead, a more conventional phone design will co-exist with the new form factor for a while before foldable smartphones take control over the market.

There’s a lot of hype around the new form factor, but the truth is that we are only seeing the first generation of foldable phones. At $1980, the Samsung Galaxy Fold costs way more than the priciest traditional smartphones.

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And it’s not hard to imagine why the Galaxy Fold is an expensive smartphone. Despite its early screen issues and delayed release date, Samsung’s revamped foldable smartphone generated plenty of hype for its unconventional design. It’s a two-in-one device that’s both a phone and a tablet. This matters a lot, especially at a time when all smartphones look the same and there is no differentiation between two phones except for a few minor changes.

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The good thing about foldable phones is that they offer consumers something new. This is one reason why companies like Samsung, Motorola and Huawei are excited about foldable phones. You can have a phone like the new Motorola Razr that can hold in half, or the Mate X with its screen wraps it around the outside so users can still view it when it’s closed.

Kondap said Qualcomm is following the foldable smartphone segment closely and is working with both display manufacturers and handset makers. A lot of effort has gone in on the chipset level to make sure the foldable display on a foldable phone renders a lot more pixels, he said.

Qualcomm Kedar Kondap, Qualcomm vice-president of product management (Image: Anuj Bhatia/Indian Express)

“With a lot of these form factors, the screen size drives a lot more pixels. So we are driving more pixels on the screen now. We are sizing our graphics engine, our DDR bandwidth, our display processing in making sure we can account for that,” he said.

Devices like the Galaxy Fold and Motorola Razr are expensive and these first-generation phones are somewhat more fragile. Another issue with existing folding phones is that they use folding plastic OLED screens and not glass screens. Usually, plastic screens easily scratch and get damaged.

Motorola, Moto Razr 2019, Moto Razr 2019 sale, Motorola Razr 2019 price, Motorola Razr flip phone Kondap said Qualcomm is following the foldable smartphone segment closely. (Image credit: Bloomberg)

However, there are reports that Samsung will release a new clamshell foldable phone on February 11 in San Francisco that might feature the world’s first foldable glass display. It’s being said that Samsung might use last year’s Snapdragon 855 chipset, which was seen on the Galaxy S10 and OnePlus 7 Pro. This way Samsung would be able to sell the foldable phone under $1000. But nothing has been confirmed yet.

Kondap concludes by saying that although there are no affordable foldable smartphones at present, advancement in foldable display technologies could result in cheaper options in the near future. “There are display technologies that are moving in that direction. We work very closely with these display manufacturers so we know what’s coming down the pipe.”

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