Apple’s Android rivals are going all-in on folding phones in 2019

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This early prototype Samsung foldable phone suggests how the Galaxy X might look.
This prototype Samsung folding phone could be a harbinger of many, many to follow.
Screenshot: Samsung

At least four big smartphone makers are reportedly prepping foldable models for 2019. This radical new design could reinvigorate the slowing phone market, hence the widespread interest.

But Apple is a notable holdout. This means it could end up being the only top 5 phone maker not releasing a foldable phone next year.

Samsung has been fairly open about its plans. Add in various unconfirmed reports, and it becomes nearly certain that the Korean company will bring a folding phone to market in the first half of 2019.

Just last week came news that China’s Huawei wants to beat Samsung to the punch for the PR value. Huawei isn’t that well-known in the United States, but it recently supplanted Apple as the world’s second-largest phone maker. Breaking new ground with a foldable phone would certainly raise the company’s profile.

Folding phone plans from two more Chinese companies

Xiaomi, the third-largest phone maker, apparently doesn’t want to be left out of the folding smartphone game. The Chinese company is working with Korean parts manufacturers on a foldable phone, according to The Korea Herald.

Both Samsang and Huawei are expected to introduce phones that fold with the display inside. Xiaomi, by contrast, is reportedly looking at making one that folds with the screen on the outside.

A second Chinese company, Oppo, is also allegedly talking to component suppliers in Korea about a folding phone.

Clearly, both are well away from having anything on the market, but each reportedly hopes to make it happen in 2019.

Wither the folding iPhone?

Apple stands out for not planning a folding iPhone next year. But that doesn’t mean Tim Cook and Co. are ignoring the trend.

There have been reports for some time that Apple is considering a foldable iPhone for 2020. A recent report suggested it might not come until 2021, though.

While this apparently puts Apple behind all its top rivals in this category, it’s not a simple situation.

No one is suggesting that the flagship Samsung Galaxy S10 is going to fold. Instead, Samsung is expected to make a small number of foldable phones to see how much interest there is for them in the market.

That’s reportedly Huawei’s strategy, too. The same likely holds true for Xiaomi and Oppo.

Apple doesn’t do things that way. It introduces two or three devices per year and expects them to sell by the millions. It won’t make a foldable iPhone until the design is ready to be a flagship smartphone. And that’s probably not going to be true until 2020 at the earliest.