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Huawei wants to beat Samsung to market with a foldable smartphone of its own

Published Jul 26th, 2018 10:02PM EDT
Huawei vs. Galaxy Foldable Smartphone

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One of the hotly anticipated handsets of 2019 is Samsung’s first foldable handset. We used to call it the Galaxy X until earlier this week, when we learned that Galaxy X might be Samsung’s first gaming phone, which doesn’t fold. Then we learned Galaxy F might be the real name of the handset.

Whatever it is, the Samsung foldable is expected to launch in early 2019. But when it finally arrives, after more than two years of speculation and rumors, the Galaxy foldable phone might not be the first phone of its kind in the world. Huawei seems very eager to beat Samsung to market.

As it is right now, we don’t have real foldable handsets. We do have ZTE Axon M-like devices (below) that are practically two smartphone displays joined by a hinge. That’s not what we expect from this new form factor, which means we’re still waiting for someone to make the first foldable smartphone in the world.

Image source: ZTE

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard that Huawei is working on a foldable smartphone of its own — and, to be clear, everyone else is also working on something. But Huawei wants to beat Samsung to market, a new report from Nikkei Asian Review reveals.

Huawei is going to partner with local display supplier BOE for the flexible OLED screen that would go inside this unnamed Huawei foldable handset.

The first batch would be limited, but Huawei and BOE want just to beat Samsung to market. “Huawei’s planned volume could be limited to some 20,000 to 30,000 units, or even less, for a small group of first-wave adopters,” a source said. “The effort is mainly to demonstrate its technological capability and to attract the industry’s attention and media coverage.”

The product will hit the market by “very early 2019,” according to Yuanta Investment Consulting analyst Jeff Pu.

“The Chinese company wants to be the first in the industry even if the display technology from its panel supplier might not be that ready like Samsung,” he said.

The launch date depends on the development of the technology and the durability of the foldable panels, the report notes.

While Huawei wants to attract the attention of smartphone buyers, BOE is going after bigger fish. The company has been rumored for years to eye Apple’s iPhone supply business. BOE has been heavily investing in OLED display manufacturing plants, in the hopes that it will attract Apple’s attention.

For Huawei, it’s only logical to partner with a local company that’s heavily subsidized by the government. It’s not like Samsung will provide foldable screens to any rival, especially Huawei before its foldable phone hits the market.

The report doesn’t mention price details for the unnamed foldable Huawei phone, but a WitsView analyst explains profitability isn’t a major concern for this project. “Profitability for this project is not the first priority for the two Chinese companies,” Eric Chiou said.

It’s unclear at this time what kind of specs Huawei’s foldable phone will have to offer, but we’re probably looking at top of the line hardware.

Samsung’s Galaxy foldable phone, also supposed to be a limited run in the first year, is rumored to cost $1,500 to $2,000 because of the extra costs that went into creating this sophisticated handset.

Huawei is currently the world’s third-largest handset maker behind Apple, but the company plans to overtake the iPhone maker soon. Next order of business would be displacing Samsung, which has been the world’s largest handset maker for a few years now.

As for BOE, check out the video below to see its foldable smartphone concepts in action:

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.