The folding smartphone may have finally arrived during Mobile World Congress this week with the unveiling of Samsung's Galaxy Fold and Huawei's Mate X. So what do these two bendable blowers stand for exactly? While we'll need to get our hands on them to really flesh that out, here we'll take a look at the design and technical details to see how they stack up at this early stage.
Offering the screen real estate of a small tablet with the compact footprint of a smartphone, it's easy to see why Huawei and Samsung both raced to bring folding handsets to market, and they surely won't be the last. But the way the two have delivered on this promise differs ever so slightly, as do the final specs and performance of the two products. So where do they differ?
Behind the fold
The folding capabilities of both the Mate X and the Galaxy Fold leverage hinge mechanisms sealed away in the center of the device.
Samsung's is designed to swing open like a book to reveal a 7.3-inch AMOLED display as your double-page spread. When snapped shut, a 4.6-inch HD Super AMOLED display lights up the front cover. Apps that are open on the front display will appear instantly on the larger screen inside as it is unfolded, with enough space for three apps to populate the display at once. Samsung says its hinge with interlocking gears can endure the stress of hundreds of thousands of openings.
While this is impressive, Huawei's solution does seem like more of a technological achievement, at least at this early stage. Dubbed the Falcon Wing Mechanical Hinge, the mechanism places the display on the outside of the fold rather than the inside to offer eight inches of edge-to-edge OLED screen real estate when laid flat. When folded over, this is divided into a 6.6-inch display on the front and 6.4-inch display on the back.
Samsung's Galaxy Fold is fitted with no less than six cameras. When closed, there are three on the back consisting of a 16 MP ultra-wide, 12 MP wide-angle and 12 MP telephoto lenses, joined by a 10 MP selfie camera on the front. Opening it up reveals a 10 MP and 8 MP dual lens selfie camera on the inside.
Huawei has taken a different approach for the Mate X with three cameras developed with Leica, though there are whispers of a hidden fourth lens, as reported by Tech Radar. These include a 40 MP wide angle, a 16 MP ultra wide and eight MP telephoto lens. All are wedged into a vertical camera bar on the back that doubles as a handle. This means the phone will need to be turned around to snap selfies when using the larger of the two folded displays, but the smaller display on the back should help you frame up the shot. The lack of lenses on the tablet side also allows for the edge-to-edge display. Pros and cons.
So how chunky are they?
Samsung is yet to detail the exact dimensions of the Galaxy Fold, so we only have the display sizes to use as a guide for now. It does say that it invented a new polymer to endure all that bending that is around 50 percent thinner than a standard smartphone display, but how much of a bulge it will create in your pocket is unclear at this stage.
The Mate X on the other hand, has a depth of 11 mm (0.4 in) at its thickest point, the vertical camera bar/handle on the end. For reference, the iPhone X is 7.7 mm (0.30 in) thick, while the Samsung Galaxy S9 is 8.5 mm thick (0.33 in). Folded up, the Mate X measures 78.3 mm wide and 161.3 mm tall (3.1 and 6.3 in), and when unfurled into full tablet mode it measures 146.2 mm (5.75 in) across.
The key specs
The Galaxy Fold offers 12 GB of RAM, 512 GB of storage and is powered by an as-yet-unnamed processor, though Samsung will likely be pulling one from the top shelf. It includes a fingerprint sensor and the dual batteries amount to a 4,380 mAh capacity. It comes with support for wireless charging for secondary devices, so you'll be able to charge up other devices by plonking them down on the phone.
Powered by Huawei's speedy Kirin 980 processor, the Mate X offers 8 GB of RAM and 512 GB of internal storage, with the battery capacity listed as 4,500 mAh. Split into two sections, Huawei's 55 W SuperCharge tech will bring the battery levels from flat to 85 percent in 30 minutes.
When can I get one?
Neither folding phone will come cheaply. Samsung says the Galaxy Fold will be available from April for a starting price of US$1,980, while Huawei's Mate X will break the bank even further with a price tag of €2,299 in Europe (US$2,600, though it seems unlikely to be sold in the US). Huawei hasn't detailed a launch date for the Mate X, though given it has now offered hands-on time with the device at Mobile World Congress, there's reason to suspect it may be a little further along the production pipeline.
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