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Korea and China Clash for Supremacy in Foldable Phones and 5G Technology
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Korea and China Clash for Supremacy in Foldable Phones and 5G Technology
  • By Michael Herh
  • January 14, 2019, 11:07
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A 5G prototype smartphone from Samsung Electronics is on display at CES 2019, the world's largest consumer electronics exhibition held in Las Vegas.

Korean and Chinese smartphone makers, which are fiercely competing for a bigger share of the global market, are racing to keep ahead of the competition in future mobile technology.

In the case of foldable phones, even though Chinese startup Royole fired the first salvo with the world's first out-folding smartphone “FlexPai,” industry watchers say that Korean companies are expected to take the lead in the commercialization of in-folding smartphones.

5G smartphones also garnered much attention at CES 2019 as Samsung Electronics and its Chinese competitors, including Xiaomi, Oppo and Vivo simultaneously displayed their prototypes.


It was Royole’s FlexPai that attracted the most attention at CES 2019. The company’s booth was crowded with visitors who wanted to get their hands on the out-folding smartphone.

To showcase its flexible display technology, Royole placed speakers, bags and hats featuring a folded or rolled display at the exhibition booth.

Smartphone experts say that Samsung Electronics will become the world’s first company to commercialize foldable phones, although it failed to become the world's first company to unveil a foldable phone. At CES 2019, the Korean smartphone giant did not take the wraps off its foldable phone. But some media outlets say that Samsung Electronics unofficially showed its foldable phone to major partners. The company displayed images of its foldable displays in “Galaxy Innovation,” an exhibition that showed the history of the Galaxy S and Note Series held during the Samsung Developer Conference (SDC) in November of last year.

LG Electronics’ rollable display technology also grabbed attention. The company won the CES Best TV Product Award with the “LG Signature OLED TV R,” which rolls up into the cabinet when not in use. "We are considering expanding rollable displays into small-sized display devices such as tablet PCs," said Kwon Bong-suk, director of LG Electronics' MC & HE Business Division in a meeting with reporters on Jan. 8.


Korean companies are said to have better technology for flexible cover windows (FCWs), which are the core part of flexible devices. "The ultimate goal is to make foldable phones as slim as one millimeter. But the FlexPai looks much thicker as it is about 14 millimeters thick," said an official of SK Innovation that exhibited FCWs at CES 2019. SK Innovation's FCW is one millimeter when folded. The company is checking whether or not displays based on its FCWs can withstand harsh use of being folded more than 200,000 times repeatedly.

5G smartphones are a hot issue of the mobile industry this year along with foldable phones Samsung Electronics showcased a 5G prototype smartphone at its booth.

"One merit of 5G phones is that they have all of the core technologies of 5G telecommunications while maintaining the features of smartphones used by us today," a Samsung Electronics official said. "We carried out a 5G demonstration in Hawaii with a prototype handset a month ago. We demonstrated 4K media streaming and video calls."

China’s Xiaomi, Oppo and Vivo did not set up their official booths at CES 2019 but instead had their presences felt at the Qualcomm booth. Qualcomm exhibited 5G prototypes of the “Mi MIX3” of Xiaomi, the “Find X” of Oppo and the “NEX” of Vivo loaded with its Snapdragon X50 5G. "As soon as China's 5G services are launched, they can be immediately commercialized," a Qualcomm official said.