Forecast: 240 devices will have flexible or foldable screens by 2028

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This new feature has the potential to keep consumers on the two-year smartphone replacement cycle.

5G and foldable phones: The promises and problems
TechRepublic’s Karen Roby and CNET’s Jessica Dolcourt discuss the current and future state of the smartphone industry and the much-anticipated benefits of 5G.

We are still waiting for the
Galaxy Fold
to ship, but foldable smartphones are coming. Look for OLED screens printed onto plastic to replace the glass used in most LCD screens on phones today. The plastic screens will offer many more options than the current glass displays.

ABI Research predicts that smartphone shipments with some type of foldable, flexible, or rollable display will grow to reach 228 million in 2028. New tablets will have this new feature as well, which pushes the total number of devices to 240 million over the next decade.

TechRepublic spoke with Stephanie Tomsett, an analyst at ABIResearch who tracks wearables, platforms, and market data, for her take on foldable screens and the smartphone market. 

TechRepublic: Which companies are taking the lead in developing foldable technology?
Tomsett: Companies of note include Samsung, with its Galaxy Fold that has been delayed and may cause concern for consumers looking to adopt a foldable smartphone; Huawei, with its Mate X that has also been delayed and again may cause some concern; and Royole, with its FlexPai that was released in China before any other foldable smartphone, with a developer edition available worldwide. [The Royole FlexPai is available now, and its price tag starts at $1,318.]   

SEE: What is 5G? Everything you need to know about the new wireless revolution (ZDNet)

Most other smartphone manufacturers have either confirmed that they are working on a smartphone with a flexible display or have a number of patents for the technology in place, suggesting they will be releasing a device in the future.

TechRepublic: Smartphones are now a must-have, not a nice-to-have. How does this affect the market?
Stephanie Tomsett: Smartphones have for a long time been transitioning to be a vital tool, with the market reflecting this as smartphone shipments are continuously high. It’s unlikely that there will be any major growth in the market moving forward, as most consumers who want a smartphone already purchase them. The market will still see [some] growth, as smartphone manufacturers continue to release devices with new features, form factors, and technologies.

TechRepublic: Will foldable screens be more relevant to the consumer than to enterprise users?
Stephanie Tomsett: Whilst the consumer market will likely take the majority of foldable or flexible smartphone shipments, there are some use cases for the technology in the enterprise. Workers having access to a smartphone and a tablet in one device is advantageous, as a greater amount of information can be seen on the larger screen, without the disadvantage of taking up a large amount of space.

TechRepublic: Is the fold factor more relevant to any particular industry?
Stephanie Tomsett: Foldable smartphones will be particularly useful to any remote or field industry. These workers will also be able to handle quick activities on the smaller screen, such as responding to emails, leaving the larger screen for activities that require access to more information.

As vendors look into new ways to preserve the current “new phone every two years” replacement rate, consumers are balking a little at buying an even more expensive phone every two years. The foldable factor might be enough to sway consumers into paying the premium price for this latest cool feature for at least a little while longer. 

Also see

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If you want to get your hands on a folding smartphone right now, you only really have one option: The Royale FlexPai. Available to developers who want to spend a minimum of $1,318 USD on a developer kit, the FlexPai folds out similar to the Mate X, though without the camera bar on one edge.

The FlexPai is being offered more as a prototype device than a working model, and CNET’s experiments with the device back that assertion up: It’s chunky and hard to hold, it’s buggy when switching orientations, and it frequently registered unintentional touches when folded in half.

SEE: Smartphones and mobile tech: More must-read coverage (TechRepublic on Flipboard)

Image: CNET

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