The device will follow Samsung's Galaxy Fold, which hit the US shelves on Friday, and possibly Huawei's Mate X, which is not yet on sale.
Folding materials are developed in various shapes and designs. One thing that does seem to have in common, however, is the delayed start dates. Both Samsung and Huawei missed their initial sales plans.
Motorola, a unit of Chinese consumer electronics giant Lenovo, is working on a secret folding phone believed to be reviving the Razr brand. Unlike Samsung's Galaxy Fold or Huawei's Mate X that fold out from phones into tablets, Motorola's foldability is expected to fold inward like its popular Razr flip phones, according to a patent filed in 2017.
that Samsung and Huawei showed off their devices during events late last year and earlier this year, Motorola has said very little about its foldability. In February, a manager confirmed the existence of the Engadget device and said Motorola had no "intention to come later than everyone else on the market." CNET later announced that Motorola plans to launch the phone in the summer.
But summer is coming and going, and Motorola has not yet said a word about its foldability.
He is not alone. Folding earlier this year seems to be the future of smartphones. In a world where cellphone designs have largely housed rectangular glass panels, collapsible materials are something truly innovative: a device that is a phone when you want something compact, or a tablet when you need more real estate on display. It is estimated that almost every company in the handset market is considering folding materials.
Samsung and Huawei, the two largest phone makers in the world, had grand plans for introducing foldable devices by mid-2019 technology. The designs generated a lot of buzz and got us excited about the phones again. Then realities hit.
Samsung's Fold Trouble
Earlier this year, Samsung seemed ready to be the first major manufacturer of foldable phones. Its $ 980 galaxies have a 4.6-inch folding display and a separate 7.3-inch display when folded into a tablet. You will be able to start using applications such as the Flipboard on the small front display and then choose where you left off when moving to the large internal display.
Reviewers largely liked the device, but Samsung canceled the April sale date of the Galaxy Fold, four days before launch, after several reporters discovered screen defects in their review units. Some peeled off a thin top layer of the display, which was the main protective coating, not a movable screen protector. Others had detritus under the screen itself, causing bumps and bulges.
"It was disturbing", Samsung co-chair D.J. Koch told reporters in late June in Korea. "I pressed it before it's ready."
After examining the issues for about three months, Samsung said in July that it had resolved the device's initial problems. Samsung began selling its updated Fold in September in places like South Korea and the UK. Folding US hit on Friday, complemented by a new customer service plan to deal with all the problems buyers face.
Meanwhile, Huawei has not yet started selling its folding, Mate X. The $ 2600 phone, designed to operate on super fast networksin China and other regions, has made made its first appearance at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in February. At that time, CEO Richard Yu said that if it wasn't necessary to build 5G networks, it could deliver Mate X immediately.
Unlike Fold, which opens as a book to reveal a folding screen inside, the Mate X has a folding screen on the outside. It should only be opened when you want to access a tablet-sized display.
Huawei may begin selling its folding Mate X phone as soon as October, Yu said earlier this month at a briefing at the IFA Electronics Show in Berlin. He blamed the delay in the launch of 5G and the need to give developers time to adapt their applications to the new screen size.
But he also acknowledged that building a folding phone was not easy.
"Manufacturing this phone is not only very expensive, but it has some challenges for volume and mass production," says Yu.
Samsung and Huawei aren't the only companies working on folding materials. Fremont, California, startup Royole became the first company to introduce a folding phone with its Flexpai in October 2018. CNET reviewer Lynn La, during her brief time with the $ 1,318 device, said it "still looks aesthetically like a prototype , not a refined and polished product. "
Xiaomi showed a foldable prototype of the phone in videos, but it's unclear when the product may be released on the market. Chinese mobile phone maker TCL has been showing off its concept devices at trade shows this year, but said it plans to launch nothing by 2020. And the potential folds from Apple, Google, LG and Lenovo are nothing more than rumors so far.
The struggles experienced by Samsung, Huawei and other handset makers are probably the same obstacles for Motorola.
Folding screens are more delicate than normal smartphone displays. They are made of plastic (folding glass is not yet available), which means they can easily scratch.
The devices as a whole have some durability issues as Samsung finds out. Although he said he solved the problems experienced by reporters at the first Fold iteration, a TechCrunch reviewer noticed the defect after using his updated model in just one day. There have been no reports of problems with consumer devices in Korea, the United Kingdom and other markets where Fold is already launching.
Samsung stated that it encourages "Galaxy Fold owners to read the care instructions included in the box and in the product manual available online. The products used in these instructions are warranted. "Some of these tips include being careful when folding your device so that you do not place objects such as cards, coins, or keys on the screen and do not push the screen with a hard or sharp object like a pen or nail.
Probably Motorola is also looking to see consumer reaction to the first folders by Samsung and Huawei, said Creative Strategies analyst Carolina Milanesi.
"It is necessary to position the device very carefully," Milanesi said.
Motorola's original Razr was one of the most recognizable brands of phones and has led the company to success in the flip phone market. The ultra-thin phone first launched at a surprise price of $ 500 as an exclusive phone for Cingular Wireless (now AT&T.) It has become one of the most popular phones in history, selling more than 50 million units within two years of its debut in 2004.
But Motorola has not taken advantage of Razr's success and is struggling to compete with Apple and others in smartphones. Google bought Motorola in 2012, and then resold it to Lenovo two years later. Motorola has made its mark largely on well-equipped budget phones such as the Moto G franchise and the Moto Z franchise, which can be upgraded to 5G through attached Moto Moto. But it also aims to get into more premium devices, especially when it comes to 5G.
While Razr is a recognizable name, Motorola does not have the luxury of a huge marketing budget and product range like its larger competitors on the phone, – said Milanesi.
And even these companies have found that consumers can be wary of spending thousands of dollars on delicate phones, making it vital to position the original products as devices for early adopters and other people who want to start experimenting with folding designs There are compromises with folding devices, such as that there is no resistance to water or dust.
"Companies are passionate about … this is the future," Milanesi said. "But they're not careful enough to position that it's not for everyone."
When Motorola finally shows off its first fold this year, we'll find out what the company has learned.