In 2019, some of the major manufacturers, such as Samsung, Huawei and LG, will introduce at least one folding smartphone. All these companies have already officially announced their projects under development and the first models will be introduced on the market soon. However, there is another manufacturer that needs to be considered and that should not be underestimated: Xiaomi.
Towards the end of last year, Xiaomi was the subject of several rumors that the Chinese company had developed its own folding smartphone and that it would arrive on the shelves in the second half of 2019. More than two weeks ago, however, it was Xiaomi herself that exposed itself on the subject, publicly declaring that it had a folding smartphone under development.
The video that amazed everyone
Lin Bin, co-founder and CEO of Xiaomi, published a video showing the prototype of the device in question. The Chinese company's folding smartphone amazed everyone with its special feature: the design shows a unique device because the display can be folded twice.
Check out this special video from #Xiaomi President and Co-founder Bin Lin, showing off a very special phone prototype... 😎— Donovan Sung (@donovansung) January 23, 2019
What does everyone think we should name this phone? 🤔#InnovationForEveryone pic.twitter.com/1lFj3nM7tD
With this video, the CEO wanted to report to everyone that the company has already overcome most of the technical problems related to its implementation, including the flexible display, the folding mechanism and the adaptation of the interface. The symmetrical design perfectly combines the tablet experience with that of a smartphone.
It is a double-folding design
After Xiaomi's confirmation, the 3D renderings from LetsGoDigital were always coming. The time has come to take a closer look at the folding smartphone, made on the images that could be seen in the video proposed by the CEO.
Fully open, the display (or tablet if you want) shows very thin edges and frames and you can bend it on two sides outward. It is a very elegant design that, once folded, makes it a smartphone with a relatively large screen. The power button is located at the top, while the bottom button provides space for the USB-C port.
We would like to point out that the user interface will not reflect at all on the renders proposed in this article. The company will use a readjusted MIUI, as it later confirmed. Unfortunately, it is not yet clear how the camera compartment will be configured. The video clearly shows the camera app icon, but physically there is no trace of any sensor (at least on the screen). It is therefore likely that there will be only one sensor mounted at the back from which you can also shoot selfies by bending one part of the screen.
Another alternative would be to place the camera under the screen (avoiding notches and holes), although it would seem quite unlikely. This technology is not currently available even for "normal" displays, let alone for folding displays.
Xiaomi speaks for the first time
But let's get to the highlight of the article: LetsGoDigital contacted Xiaomi about the folding smartphone and, to their surprise, received a comprehensive response from the Chinese company, which stated that the device is currently being tested in its laboratories and, for now, only a few prototypes are available.
The spokesman then wanted to add some very important things to the statement: the design, the folding mechanism and the new MIUI user interface were developed by Xiaomi itself, while the folding screen was created in collaboration with a partner. However, it is not yet possible to know when Xiaomi will be able to market this product.
Below is the official statement of the Xiaomi Global PR team:
"The double folding smartphone is the latest innovation by Xiaomi. One of the key components of the phone, the flexible folding screen, is co-developed by Xiaomi and its supply chain partner. Aside from the screen, its design, folding mechanism and MIUI adaptation are independently developed by us.
"Xiaomi is first in the world to present a double folding smartphone and has conquered the technical challenges posed in its three different form factors – double folded, single folded, and tablet form. Prior to finding the best solution, Xiaomi has conducted extensive research and experiments to develop a robust folding mechanism that will allow the flexible screen to withstand mechanical stress.
"Each innovation is the result of joint, cumulative R&D efforts from supply chain partners and the device manufacturer. It is misguided to think a folding screen can be easily turned into a folding smartphone without significant breakthroughs in technology. Each segment of the industrial chain has its unique contribution. Xiaomi believes that innovative products and great user experience are made possible with sound collaboration and participation from all parties."
Still too early to conquer the MWC
On 24 February, one day before the start of the MWC 2019, Xiaomi will hold a press conference to reveal the company's first 5G smartphone. This is a 5G variant of the already known Xiaomi Mi MIX 3 launched last year.
But it's also likely that Xiaomi will delight us with some unscheduled surprises. For example, a recent patent shows that the company is working on a smartphone with two holes in the display for the dual front camera. After the Samsung Galaxy A8s and the Honor View 20, it is easy to imagine that Xiaomi will also get on that wagon. Let's not forget the imminent arrival of the Galaxy S10 and its Plus variant. The latter will most likely be the first smartphone in the world with a double front camera integrated into a double hole.
As far as the folding smartphone is concerned, however, it is very difficult to introduce it to the Barcelona trade fair, especially since, as Xiaomi itself reported, only a handful of prototypes are available at the moment and the company is not at all ready to start mass production. It may, therefore, be introduced in the second half of 2019, as stated in a recent report from Korea.
That doesn't mean that Xiaomi's folding smartphone won't be at MWC 2019. We expect the company to be able to show it semi-officially from the stage of its press conference, a bit like Samsung did during the SDC 2018.
What do you think of Xiaomi's words? Are you also excited about the idea of a smartphone that can bend in two places?