By Wares February 28, 2019 Industry news

Speed and flexibility were the key takeaways from last week's Barcelona smartphone smashup.

This week, the tech world descended on Barcelona for the show formerly known as Mobile World Congress (henceforth MWC Barcelona).

Somewhat pre-empted by Samsung whose "Unpacked" event took place prior to the show opening (see all the videos here), the Spanish event was all pretty much all about foldable phones and 5G.

LG ran with 5G in the form of the LG V50 ThinQ and followed Samsung in offering a foldable phone, the LG Dual Screen (actually it's two screens with a hinge between them) at MWC Barcelona 2019.

Check out the launch video here:

Huawei too brought out its foldable Mate X smartphone - see the shortened video courtesy of Engadget:

TCL was another banking on flexibility.

Not widely known outside of China for its non-TV products, TCL was showing off a foldable (actually hinged) smartphone prototype which it's rumoured to be substantially cheaper than other foldables when it comes next year.

Check out Cnet's findings here.

Another brand not normally associated with smartphones, Energizer Mobile was showing off a phone which, whilst not foldable, was very thick indeed, thanks to the need to enclose a truly massive battery (yes it's that Energizer brand, being used under licence by Avenir Mobile...).

Back to better-known smartphone brands and Sony, which used MWC Barcelona to unveil the very, very tall Xperia 10 and 10 Plus with 21:9 displays, presumably for people who just can't help but watch lots of widescreen content on the move.

Sony also rolled out the world's first smartphone with a 4K OLED display and a pro-quality triple lens camera, the Xperia 1.

Check out the videos below: 

Having unveiled its 10x lossless zoom camera technology, Oppo too revealed a foldable prototype to the media.

Nokia also stuck to cameras for its big news:

So, is foldable The Next Big Thing in smartphones?

Possibly, but not this year anyway, according to the pundits at Canalys, who state in no uncertain terms that 2019 "will not be the year that foldable phones go mainstream."

"They will remain exclusively ultra-luxury devices," says sensible Canalys, which expects fewer than 2 million foldable phones to ship worldwide this year.

“Samsung and Huawei will account for the majority of foldable smartphones shipped in 2019.

"But high shipment numbers are not the priority,” says Canalys Senior Director, Nicole Peng.

"The goal is to capture consumer awareness, and each vendor wants to prove it can achieve the greatest technological advances with its new industrial designs.”

Barriers to rapid uptake? Simple: “Cost is the key factor that will hinder adoption,” adds Canalys Senior Analyst, Ben Stanton.

“The ‘fold-out’ design (with the screen on the outside, as used on the Huawei Mate X) will eventually lend itself to cheaper devices, as manufacturers won’t need to include as many cameras, nor a second ‘outside’ screen (which the Samsung has), and the bend on the flexible screen won’t need to be as tight.

But these devices will come too late to affect this year’s shipment numbers significantly, says Canalys, adding that poor quality or design will colour consumers' first impressions and could well stymie the uptake of the new technology even before it reaches the mass market.


That's by no means an exhaustive review of this massive smartphone-centric show so we suggest checking out Engadget's excellent coverage as well as what WIRED found.

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