Samsung's Galaxy Z Fold, Z Flip 4 May Soon Have More Competition
A new wave of foldable phones could be imminent, if the rumors are true.
Lisa EadiciccoSenior Editor
Lisa Eadicicco is a senior editor for CNET covering mobile devices. She has been writing about technology for almost a decade. Prior to joining CNET, Lisa served as a senior tech correspondent at Insider covering Apple and the broader consumer tech industry. She was also previously a tech columnist for Time Magazine and got her start as a staff writer for Laptop Mag and Tom's Guide.
Foldable phones still account for a small portion of the smartphone market, but some of the world's most established phone makers are trying to change that. Samsung introduced the Galaxy Z Fold 4 and Galaxy Z Flip 4 on Aug. 10, followed by new foldable phone announcements from Motorola and Xiaomi. There could be even more foldables on the way later this year and beyond, if rumors and reports are to be believed.
Foldables are a nascent but growing part of the mobile phone industry. Shipments of foldable devices are said to have increased by 264.3% in 2021 compared to 2020, according to International Data Corporation. But the IDC estimates that just 7.1 million foldable phones were shipped in all of 2021, compared to 362.4 million phones shipped in just the fourth quarter of last year.
Here are the rumored foldable phones we're expecting to potentially see from Google, Samsung and others.
Watch this: When Is the iPhone Flip Going to Come Out?
A new Samsung foldable
The Galaxy Z Fold 4 and Z Flip 4 just arrived, but Samsung has already been thinking about what's next. The Korean tech giant showcased several new concepts at CES 2022 in January, including phones with a tri-folding screen and a display that slides. But Samsung hasn't provided any indication that it plans to launch a new type of foldable just yet, so it's unclear whether these concepts will come to market.
But TM Roh, president and head of Samsung's mobile experience business, said in a previous CNET interview that these concepts and others are potential candidates for future foldable phone designs.
There have also been whispers of Samsung potentially preparing to launch another type of foldable phone. In a tweet that seems to have been deleted, Ice Universe previously said Samsung could debut a third type of foldable this year. Young also chimed in to say a Samsung slidable phone was scheduled for production in 2022 but had been pushed further out.
Watch this: Why Samsung Keeps Making Foldable Phones
Chinese tech giant Oppo could be preparing to take on Samsung's Galaxy Z Flip, which is currently the most popular foldable phone according to research firm Omdia.
Citing data engineer and tech blogger Yogesh Brar, tech website Pricebaba reports that Oppo plans to release two new foldable phones this fall. One of those devices will reportedly be a clamshell-style foldable similar to the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 and and Huawei P50 Pocket, while the other is expected to be an Oppo Find N sequel. Both new phones will likely run on Qualcomm's Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 processor, just like Samsung's new foldables, but rumors are scarce.
The company's current foldable, the booklike Find N, is only available in China. But Oppo has already filed a trademark for the term Find N Flip with the European Union Intellectual Property Office, as Pricebaba noticed. That could suggest Oppo's rumored flip phone may arrive in European markets as well.
The Oppo Find N has some design refinements that give it an advantage over Samsung's Z Fold line, such as a wider cover screen that feels more like a regular phone and a less noticeable crease. Samsung addressed some of these elements with its recently launched Galaxy Z Fold 4, but I'm still excited to see which improvements Oppo could bring to the flip phone-style foldable, too.
Ross Young, cofounder and CEO of Display Supply Chain Consultants, thinks the arrival of the Find N Flip could make Oppo the biggest competitor to Samsung in the foldable phone space.
"That could certainly drive a lot of volume and take share at both Huawei and Samsung's expense," Young said to CNET in a previous interview.
Google might be the next major tech company to jump on the foldable phone bandwagon. The company is reportedly working on a foldable Pixel that might have a similar shape as Oppo's Find N and a price that's lower than the $1,800 cost of Samsung's Fold phones, according to 9to5Google. The outlet also says the phone might be called the Pixel NotePad, but cautions that its camera could be a step down from the Pixel 6's.
Google hasn't said a word about any plans to release a foldable phone yet. We also didn't see any clues about a foldable Pixel at Google I/O, the company's annual developers conference where it sometimes shows off new tech concepts. But given Google's recent focus on hardware -- which it emphasized at I/O by announcing six new gadgets -- it wouldn't be surprising to see the company experiment with foldables.
If Google does have a foldable phone in the works, it's unclear when it would launch. Korean news site The Elec said Google previously planned to announce the device in the fourth quarter of 2022, but the company has reportedly delayed the launch.
A TCL foldable phone
TCL scrapped plans to release a flip phone-style foldable phone in 2021, but it's not giving up yet. The Chinese electronics maker showcased two new concepts earlier this year for phones with rollable and foldable screens. One concept has a screen that can bend inwards and outwards, while the other can fold and expand the size of its screen.
TCL hasn't said when it plans to release a foldable phone. But if and when it does, the company plans to keep the price at $700 or less, TCL previously told CNET. Getting to that price will be challenging, but hopefully it will motivate other phone makers to make their foldables similarly affordable.
Apple is one of the few major smartphone makers that hasn't released a foldable phone, and it's unclear whether it ever will. But rumors about an iPhone with a bendable screen have been circulating for years, fueling speculation. If Apple is working on a foldable iPhone, it likely won't release the device for another few years. Bloomberg's Mark Gurman wrote in his Power On newsletter in 2021 that a foldable iPhone is still two to three years away. Display supply chain analyst Young also said in February that Apple's foldable iPhone would be delayed until 2025, according to 9to5Mac.
Waiting a few years to launch its first foldable might not be a bad idea. Foldable phones are expected to account for 1.8% of the overall smartphone market by 2025, a jump from 0.5% in 2021, according to IDC. The market research firm also says foldables are expected to take over one-third of the premium market for Android phones.