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A concept photo of Huawei’s foldable phone, rendered by TechConfigurations. (Picture: TechConfigurations)

Can Huawei beat Samsung to release a 5G foldable phone?

Huawei has reportedly shown the finished product to South Korean carriers

This article originally appeared on ABACUS
Samsung may have unveiled a foldable phone before Huawei… but the Chinese smartphone maker still wants to beat them to market.
South Korea’s ETNews reported that Huawei showed off their 5G-ready foldable phone to several South Korean carriers, and that it’s a “finished product” instead of a prototype. The site quoted an anonymous senior official who confirmed that the phone supports 5G and said that it’s “more complete than expected”.

It may not seem like that big of a compliment, but it’s the first time we’ve heard about exactly how far along Huawei is with its foldable phone -- and the report suggests that it could even be further in development than Samsung, which only showed a prototype at its conference earlier this month.

The phone’s also reported to measure 5 inches when folded, and 8 inches when unfolded. That’s wider than Samsung’s prototype, which reportedly measures 7.3 inches when unfolded, and also wider than the 7.8 inch display on Royole, a flexible display maker who actually unveiled the first foldable phone a week before Samsung.

A concept photo of Huawei’s foldable phone, rendered by TechConfigurations. (Picture: TechConfigurations)

But releasing a foldable phone isn’t quite the same as releasing a practical foldable phone. All three companies seem to want to be the first to get one out just for the sake of being first.

Android Authority’s report suggests Huawei may release their phone in extremely limited quantities, suggesting it’s not quite ready for the mass market. Samsung’s phone seems like it’ll be in the same situation, judging by the alleged US$1,700 price tag for it. And Royole’s FlexPai, scheduled to ship next month, looks bulky and extremely buggy -- especially given the price tag of close to US$1,300.
Still, rudimentary as the FlexPai seems, Royole was the fastest to roll out a working product -- and it uses its own display. Royole CEO Bill Liu said at a TechCrunch event in Shenzhen yesterday that the company had no reference and had to “ cross the river by feeling the stones”. And despite the seemingly buggy performance, he also confidently gave the Royole FlexPai 9 points out of 10. “For this kind of product, 9 points (means) we have already reached a satisfactory level in terms of hardware, software and operating system,” he says. (Let’s be real though, he’s kinda biased, right?)
The ETNews report also confirmed earlier reports that said Huawei will introduce the 5G foldable phone at MWC 2019 in February. It’s not clear when consumers will be able to get their hands on the device, but given that it’s a 5G device, it should be after March -- which is when Korean carriers promised to roll out 5G networks.

How foldable phones like Samsung’s newest handset work

For more insights into China tech, sign up for our tech newsletters, subscribe to our Inside China Tech podcast, and download the comprehensive 2019 China Internet Report. Also roam China Tech City, an award-winning interactive digital map at our sister site Abacus.