Jan. 28 (NBD) -- Smartphone manufacturer Xiaomi's first foldable phone has been disclosed in a teaser video that the co-founder and president Lin Bin posted on social media Weibo last Wednesday. In the video, Lin mentioned the product as the first-ever double folding phone around the world.
However this soon triggered a wrangle between Xiaomi and tech firm Royole.
Fan Junchao, vice president at the Shenzhen-based tech company, pointed out that Xiaomi is a mobile phone assembly firm that has no core technology patents related to the phone screen and no product line, that it only has a concept flexible display and a concept smartphone that haven't been mass produced.
Since Royole released the world's first commercial fordable smartphone FlexPai in late October last year, more companies launched their concept phones with flexible displays. But all of them except Samsung and LG used concept folding displays that were bought from others and can't be produced in large scale.
As for such issue, Xiaomi responded to NBD that Xiaomi's dual folding mobile phone is an innovative product developed by the company itself. The product's flexible display is a result of collaboration between Xiaomi and its partner on the supply chain. Apart from the display, Xiaomi's innovation also involves other key fields such as phone structure, stacking, special components, interaction design and system adaptation.
In fact, as smartphone sales posted a lackluster growth, several mobile phone makers are preparing their foldable phone models.
Suzanne de Silva, director of Product Strategy and Marketing at Samsung, confirmed to Digital Trends that the company will release a new phone that adopts foldable display Infinity Flex in the first half of 2019.
Another tech giant Apple is reportedly approaching the debut of its flexible phone. According to a document released by the United States Patent and Trademark Office in November 2017, Apple has filed a patent for a foldable screen.
Fan Fuyu, analyst with WitsView of TrendForce, explained to NBD the saturated market impelled phone manufacturers to consider changing the shape of products so as to stimulate consumer demands, and foldable phone is believed to be one of designs that could attract consumers. But due to the high technical standards, it takes more time to adjust the product design and quality.
It is predicted that the penetration rate of folding smartphones at the initial stage will not be high, about 0.1 percent of the total shipment in 2019, then surging to 1.5 percent by 2021.
As flexible AMOLED panel, a display device technology, continues to evolve, single-panel foldable phones start to surface.
But currently only Samsung, LG and Royole have both flexible display technology and folding terminal products.
In Fan's view, although the foldable mobile phone draws market attention, it is still at the budding stage of development and needs design upgrade.
Fan took Samsung's concept folding mobile phone product as an example, saying the design of bending inward requires two sides of display, thus the switch between two surfaces will be a key field for optimization of user experience. The product's thickness, frame, and battery endurance can be improved as well.