28 Jan 2019

Xiaomi's prototype foldable phone is a leap ahead of competitors

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From tablet to phone in a couple of elegant folds From tablet to phone in a couple of elegant folds Xiaomi

With Mobile World Congress coming up next month, the industry is expecting to see a lot of foldable phones on display, both prototype and (almost) ready to ship. Xiaomi’s is possibly the best implementation we’ve seen so far.

First of all, we should point out that this device certainly falls into the ‘prototype’ category. But the 50 second-long video that Xiaomi president and co-founder, Lin Bin, posted on Chinese video service Weibo is compelling enough that it is gaining a lot of attention in the build up to the Barcelona event.

It’s a ‘double folder’ basically; a small tablet-sized gadget where both sides can be folded backwards to produce a more conventional compact phone form factor. The UI automatically resizes the display between the two shapes so you’re not constantly hunting round the back for the app you need when in phone mode.

Some accompanying text highlights the fact a) that it’s not coming to market any time too soon (“If you all like it, we will consider mass producing it,” it says) and b) that the company had to solve numerous technical challenges to even get the device to this stage. These include making the display itself, adapting its MUI software to run on the device’s different screens, making a four-way folding hinge, and more.

In all that R&D effort though it is not alone. Foldable displays in varying states of readiness are expected to break cover in the next month from Samsung, Huawei, Lenovo, and more, as the massed ranks of mobile manufacturers seek to buck a slowing Chinese economy and global market and rev sales up again.

Have look at The Verge’s repost of the Weibo video below. What do you think? Is this the near future? Or are we still pretty much at the gimmick stage — and an expensive gimmick too — with foldable screens?

 


Andy Stout

Andy has spent over two decades writing about all aspects of the broadcast and film industries for a variety of high-profile industry publications on both sides of the Atlantic. During that time the industry has moved from 4:3 SD to 16:9 SD to HD and now on to 4K HDR. He's getting kind of curious to see where it goes next.

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