Samsung recently unveiled its Galaxy Fold smartphone, landing the first blow against its competitors with the official reveal of a foldable smartphone-tablet hybrid.
Huawei was quick to answer, however, announcing its first foldable smartphone – the Mate X – at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.
The concept of a foldable smartphone is that the device functions as a standard smartphone but can be unfolded to serve as a tablet with around double the screen size.
Interestingly, Huawei and Samsung have approached the design of their folding devices from different angles – a practice which contrasts the similarity of modern smartphone designs.
Both smartphones are set to launch this year, and both have premium price tags.
The Huawei Mate X will be priced at €2,299 and will ship in mid-2019, while the Samsung Galaxy Fold will launch on 28 April at $1,980.
Hinges and creases
For their design, Samsung has opted for a foldable main panel and an external front panel with a lower resolution.
The Galaxy Fold folds outwards like a book, with the main display on the inside. This means a physical hinge is placed on the side of the device when closed.
One of the consequences of this is that when the device is closed and placed flat, there is a slight gap between the two halves of the chassis.
This gap means the smartphone can never lie perfectly flat when closed, and looks more like two smartphone bodies pressed together than a unified device.
Another result of the external hinge design is that the main panel could be more prone to creasing in the middle, which could compromise the quality of the display when unfolded.
Huawei opted for a different folding design with its Mate X, with the back screen folding out from the back of the smartphone towards the user.
This means that the middle of the display panel acts as the hinge of the smartphone and allows the Mate X to lie flat when folded – due to the lack of a gap.
Additionally, this means that the front panel acts as a full-screen, bezel-less display, similar to modern smartphones when the device is folded.
The design also equips the Mate X with a bezel-less rear display next to the camera array, allowing users to take selfies with the main rear camera.
Specifications and functionality
Both the Galaxy Fold and Mate X boast the latest processors from both companies, although it is important to note that the Mate X also includes Huawei’s Balong 5000 5G chip.
The devices provide the following displays when folded and unfolded:
Samsung Galaxy Fold
- 7.3-inch 2,152 x 1,536 AMOLED (Unfolded)
- 4.6-inch 1,960 x 840 AMOLED (Folded front display)
Huawei Mate X
- 8-inch 2,480 x 2,200 AMOLED (Unfolded)
- 6.6-inch 2,480 x 1,148 AMOLED (Folded front display)
- 6.3-inch 2,480 x 892 AMOLED (Folded rear display)
The Samsung and Huawei smartphones boast 4,380mAh and 4,500mAh batteries respectively, with the Huawei device featuring 55W fast-charging that delivers 85% charge in 30 minutes.
Each foldable device also has an impressive primary triple-camera system, although Samsung has included six cameras in its smartphone in total – due to the notched dual-lens system being covered when the device is folded.
Huawei’s Mate X will have 8GB of RAM with 512GB of internal storage, while the Galaxy Fold boasts an impressive 12GB of RAM and 512GB of internal storage.
Huawei widens the gap
In the race to build the best foldable smartphone, Huawei seems to have gotten off to a running start by choosing the more efficient and economical design.
Less potential for a creased unfolded display, the need for only a single high-resolution panel, and a flush connection between the two halves of the smartphone put the Mate X in a favourable position against its biggest competitor.
Samsung’s Galaxy Fold may prove to be more intuitive to some users, however, although it offers less display real estate when folded.
Maintaining app continuity and compatibility with the foldable displays while minimising lag when unfolding or rotating the screen will also be important for users of these devices.
It remains to be seen which of the smartphone-tablet hybrids will win, but Huawei has taken the first round when looking at initial impressions.
The announcement videos for the Samsung Galaxy Fold and Huawei Mate X are shown below.