Huawei plans to become the first company to launch a foldable phone. Gene Jiao, Huawei’s President of Consumer Group, Middle East & Africa, told indianexpress.com that “it’s (foldable device) not a trend, it is a reality”, suggesting such a smartphone can be expected as early as next year.
Jiao did not divulge features and specifications of Huawei’s foldable device, but is confident there will be a market for such a phone. However, he is also sure that such a device won’t replace the existing phone form factor anytime soon, which suggests a foldable phone would remain niche in the initial stages.
A foldable phone, he said, should be able to offer an incremental value to end users. “We need it, but we have to answer why we need it,” Jiao explained.
Where there has been a lot of chatter on foldable phones, nothing really concrete has come out on timelines so far. These are not easy devices to make. A foldable smartphone requires special batteries and flexible displays as well as a reimagined user interface that factors in the new screen. Jiao clarified that “the technology is ready” to create a foldable smartphone and “there are no technical challenges” left.
As per a Nikkei Asia Review report from July, Huawei is using bendable OLED displays made by China’s BOE technology group. It is the same company which has been supplying the Mate 20 Pro’s OLED panel.
Jiao said Huawei’s foldable smartphone will run on EMUI, based on Google’s Android mobile operating system. “EMUI is the best user interface in the world. We are so confident about EMUI,” he said.
However, Android does not support phones with flexible screens yet. We could expect this to be factored in when Android releases its next version. Jiao, said Huawei and Google share a close cooperation and the former has an in-depth understanding of the Android mobile operating system, it would not be a challenge to do modifications to the user interface.
Several top-tier smartphone manufacturers are currently working on phones with flexible screens that can be folded in half. Samsung, the world’s largest smartphone maker, has also expressed its desire to launch such device early next year. Apple is also rumoured to be developing a foldable phone and has recently filed a patent for a bendable phone that users can fold in half and carry in their pocket.