There’s no question that Samsung’s foldable Galaxy Fold flagship phone was one of the most hotly anticipated smartphones of the season ahead of its announcement last month. There’s also no question that Huawei completely stole the show just a few days later when it unveiled the foldable Mate X smartphone. The Galaxy Fold and Mate X are two of the first smartphones in the world to feature displays that fold open to nearly double in size, and this type of design is seen as becoming increasingly popular in the coming years as prices decline. While Samsung and Huawei are both seen leading the foldable charge, they chose two very different designs for their first folding smartphones.
Ask anyone to close his or her eyes and envision a foldable smartphone, something pretty close to the Galaxy Fold will likely be described. The device features a large main display that’s situated on the inside of the phone when it is folded closed. Then there’s a second smaller screen on the outside that lights up when the Galaxy Fold is closed and in phone mode. The Huawei Mate X, on the other hand, has a single large display that wraps around the outside of the device when it’s folded. Both designs certainly have their merits, but Huawei’s phone is the one that everybody seems to prefer. Now, a Samsung executive has responded to all the criticism and defended his company’s first foldable Galaxy phone.
In theory, Samsung’s Galaxy Fold design makes perfect sense. You have a nice big tablet display that folds inward, and then a second smaller screen on the back of the phone. In practice, however, things didn’t work out very well at all. The phone is extremely thick and the outer screen that’s used in phone mode is very small and has massive bezels around it. The the inner display has a giant chunk missing in the top-right corner where the front-facing cameras are located. It looks… very unappealing:
Huawei’s Mate X, on the other hand, is shockingly slim and sleek when it’s folded open. The single large display has very narrow bezels all around it, and there’s no notch thanks to the company’s brilliant camera design. The phone has only one camera setup that’s situated on the side opposite the display. When the phone is folded open in tablet mode, it serves as the rear camera. Then the phone can be folded closed and it becomes the selfie camera.
Huawei’s design is definitely the one people seem to prefer, and we’ve seen a ton of criticism of Samsung’s Galaxy Fold design. In fact, Huawei even took a huge shot at Samsung by saying that it tested a design similar to the Galaxy Fold, but ended up scrapping the design because it was so bad. The Mate X design does have downsides, namely that the foldable plastic covering the OLED screen is much more prone to scratches since it’s unprotected on the outside of the device. That also happens to be one of the points Samsung executive Eui-suk Chung made this week when he defended Samsung’s Galaxy Fold design.
Chung, who is Samsung’s vice president of research and development, spoke to the Australian Financial Review about the Galaxy Fold’s design. He said that outward-facing displays like the one on the Mate X are more prone to damage since they are unprotected when the device is folded closed. He also said a design like the Galaxy Fold’s will deliver better battery life since only the smaller screen draws power when the phone is folded closed.
“You open it like a book. You close it like a book. It’s much more natural than doing it the other way around, so we went for that even though it presents the harder technical challenge,” Chung added.
The exec also acknowledged another complaint that people have about the Galaxy Fold’s design. As you can see above, the two sides of the phone don’t fold together perfectly when closed so there’s a big gap between them. Samsung designed the phone this way intentionally, so that dust and dirt particles don’t damage the screen. It’s still unsightly though, and it adds even more thickness to a device that is already far too thick when closed.
Huawei’s Mate X doesn’t have any gap when it’s folded closed, since the display is on the outside of the device.
Neither smartphone is expected to be a big seller this year. They’re more technology demos than anything else, and they’ll be prices well out of reach for most smartphone users. The Galaxy Fold will retail for $1,980 when it hits store shelves next month, and the Mate X will command about $2,600. As phone makers look for the best way forward in the emerging foldable phone space, however, it appears as though the Samsung made far more mistakes with the Galaxy Fold design, and we hope Samsung and other companies learn from those mistakes.