While Samsung Electronics indefinitely postponed the launch of the Galaxy Fold due to defects, China’s Royole, Xiaomi and Huawei have launched their foldable phones, heating up competition among smartphone manufacturers.
On the day Samsung Electronics announced the temporary postponement of the launch of the Galaxy Fold, Royole began to receive pre-orders for its FlexPai foldable phones on Tmall of China's largest e-commerce channel Alibaba.
Huawei also announced it would launch its foldable phone Mate X in July. Xiaomi said it would launch a double folding style foldable phone in the first half of the year.
However, experts say that the Chinese companies that have launched or will launch their products will not be free from the “defect” controversy due to the characteristics of foldable phones. The Galaxy Fold of Samsung adopted an in-folding method, which is considered highly stable. On the other hand, Chinese smartphone makers all adopted an out-folding method that folds smartphones outward. This means that their foldable phones are in pockets or put on hard surfaces with their displays exposed.
Some experts say the key to winning the foldable phone competition is the performance of the phone. When folded, the Samsung Galaxy Fold is 15.5 millimeters to 17 millimeters thick. When unfolded, the foldable phone is 6.9 millimeters thick, when the frame of the hinge is included, it is 7.5 millimeters thick. It weighs 295 grams. The Samsung Galaxy Fold is somewhat thicker than the Huawei foldable phone Mate X but is lighter. The Mate X weighs 295 grams and is 11 millimeters thick when folded. The Royole FlexPai is 15.2 millimeters thick but weighs 320 grams, which means that the FlexPai is obviously heavier than the Galaxy Fold.
The hottest part of the controversy over the Galaxy Fold screen defects is its folding hinge. Samsung Electronics explained that a gap is inevitably created between the hinge and the display in order to make the smartphone model foldable. However, minimizing this gap is necessary to calm the controversy.
Samsung Electronics will have to replace the screen-protecting clear polyimide (CPI) film with tempered glass. While current smartphones has tempered glass to protect the organic light emitting diode (OLED) displays, the Galaxy Fold uses CPI film because they are folded and unfolded. However, some users misunderstood the CPI film of the Galaxy Fold as a general protection film and took it off from the foldable phone, touching off the controversy over the screen defect.
Industry experts predict that foldable phones to be launched after the Galaxy Fold will be loaded with glass that does not break even when bent instead of CPI film. As for the Galaxy Fold, Samsung Electronics will step up efforts to advise consumers not to take off the CPI film from their phones. The Korean smartphone giant is expected to make CPI film harder to take off or urge distributors to emphasize the point to consumers.
Apple and LG Electronics that have not joined the foldable phone race yet are closely watching the recent controversy and market reactions. Both companies are known to be developing foldable phones but neither has disclosed specific directions or release dates. Apple is expected to launch a foldable phone after 2020, but some analysts say that Apple is taking aim at the second-generation foldable phone market by adopting a glass display, not a plastic display. LG Electronics is planning to launch the dual-display phone V50, a bridge model between general smartphones and foldable smartphones, before long. It thinks that it is still premature to launch a foldable phone in the market. Some experts say that LG’s judgment might pay off handsomely this time.