Will Foldable Phones Launch at CES 2019? Here Are the Companies to Watch 

Could this be the start of a new era of smartphones?

2019 is set to be a banner year in smartphone innovation. After a full decade of dominance on the part of iPhone-like, slab designs, the quest to figure out what comes next will start to give rise to meaningfully different alternatives. At the very least, by the time smartphone season rolls around in the fall you’ll have your choice between a number of smartphone concepts that fold and bend.

A number of heavy-hitters have already announced plans for an all-screen handset that fold, or failing that have filed patent designs for such devices. Samsung teased its Galaxy F phone-tablet hybrid at its November developer conference and announced Google was already developing complementing software. And with the 2019 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas kicking off January 8, more updates about the future of mobile tech are almost certainly on the horizon.

We’re at the cusp of what could be a big phase shift in smartphone design. This year will likely see a few companies test preliminary models to see what sticks and what needs improvement. Here’s what to expect.

Foldable Smartphones at CES 2019?

Royole FlexPai
Ad images of Royole's FlexPai.

Samsung, LG, and Royole are all expected to say something about their foldable phones at the Las Vegas tech convention. But on the other hand, it’s also looking increasingly unlikely that we’ll see a new launch come January 8.

Royole’s 7.8-inch FlexPai was the first-ever foldable smartphone brought to market. The company debuted it at an invitation-only event earlier this year in China, and it’s expected to host a booth at the trade show for more publicity. That said, this early in the game it’s still unclear if this activation will come with new hardware or software additions.

While Samsung is still expected to launch its rumored Galaxy F phone in 2019, but the exact date remains a mystery and a rollout next week seems too early. Most educated guesses point to a release in late February or early March. That said, many of the details about the phone will probably leak: Blueprints of the smartphone have already shown it to tout at 7.3-inch tablet display that can be folded into a 4.58-inch handset device.

samsung foldable phone
Possible dimensions of the Galaxy F's two screens.

Finally, LG is also cooking up a phone that will unravel like a scroll. The World Intellectual Property Office published the company’s patent designs December 20, and they show off a phone that could be vastly different from the other foldable concepts we’ve seen. However, this ambitious idea likely won’t appear at CES.

Trusted smartphone leaker Evan Blass tweeted that LG’s announcement has been pushed back later in the year. But that doesn’t mean the company won’t use its booth to tease the device.

LG foldable phone
LG's take on a foldable phone might resemble a scroll.

Apple Could Launch a Foldable iPhone in a Few Years

Apple has already been granted a number of foldable phone patents. Most of them covered display tech that could keep the screen from cracking when it folds closed. But unlike Samsung, the Cupertino-based company hasn’t said a word about what’s in store for the full-fledged product, though it also seems virtually undeniable that it’s working on one.

apple iphone patent
A flexible screen would wrap around the phone's internals, creating a sort of smartphone crepe.

Based on what we’ve seen so far, these next-gen iPhones would look drastically different than Samsung’s Galaxy F. A Bloomberg report in July stated that the company will release a curved display phone in two to three years. That was bolstered by a recent patent filing that revealed an iPhone with screen that wraps all the way around it, almost like a smartphone crepe.

Motorola RAZR V4

The internet has had fun with Mtorola's Razr V4 patent designs. Major 2004 throwback.

Motorola also seems to have plans to bring back flip phones with a futuristic twist. The company filed a design patent in May 2018, depicting a phone-tablet hybrid much like Galaxy F and FlexPai. There hasn’t been any word as to when it might drop.

Since then, the internet has speculated on how this could look like once it’s ready. The results were the huge throwback to the 2004 Motorola Razr you can see in the above video.

Huawei Foldable Phone

huawei foldable smrtphone design
Huawei's foldable phone looks like it'll use a sort of middle binding to enable it to close.

Huawei is also stepping into the flexible smartphone ring, according to the company’s CEO Richard Yu in October. He revealed that the company has a working prototype and patented designs appeared online in March hinting at what it could look like.

The Chinese tech company seems to be opting for a booklet design with an accordion-like device behind the display to enable folding. Expect an update on the device in 2019.

Media via Royole, LetsGoDigital (1, 2), Patently Apple, TechConfigurations