If you thought the Mate X was the only folding smartphone in Huawei's stable, well, you thought right. Every other phone Huawei offers sticks to the standard blueprint for smartphone design, at least as it pertains to the form factor. But while that is the case right now, Huawei thinks the landscape could look very different in just a couple of years.
The operative word there is "could," as in, it is certainly possible that Huawei could crank out a bunch more folding smartphones. Huawei CEO Richard Yu talked a little bit about folding phones during a question and answer session with the media, following a keynote in Paris. One of the members of the media asked specifically if half of Huawei's devices will be foldable in a few years.
"It’s difficult to say, I think that on a flagship level in two years, half of our devices could be foldable. I really enjoy using the Mate X. I use it for work all the time, it's really useful having the larger screen when reading charts and graphs or just for browsing the web," Yu said.
The reporter who asked the question did not pull the two-year time frame out of thin air, it was a followup to Yu saying costs will come down on folding phones in a couple of years. While obviously a niche market at the moment, Yu does not rule out the possibility that folding phones will catch on in a big way. As it stands, foldable phones are sort of an experimental thing, with Huawei (Mate X) and Samsung (Galaxy Fold) gauging the market.
The obvious problem, though, is that folding phones as they exist right now are expensive. That is a result of them being costly to produce, and those costs being passed on to the consumer.
"Folding phones are just in the beginning and the market share is small, they cost a lot and it's very expensive to produce such devices. As times fly, the costs will reduce, I think in two years foldable phones will have a similar price to current flagship phones. Still some people will prefer normal smartphones and others will prefer foldable ones," Yu said.
Indeed, prices would have to come down a long way for mass adoption, assuming there is interest in folding phones in the first place. As it stands, the Galaxy Fold starts at $1,980, while the Mate X ups the ante to €2,299 (around $2,580 in US currency).
Competition could help drive prices down, but again, it all hinges on demand. There are interested parties on the vendor side, though. Oppo is rumored to be planning a folding phone by the end of the year, and a video of a double-folding phone by Xiaomi was recently spied. Taking things further, TCL is exploring a folding phone concept that turns into a bracelet.
It is going to be a an interesting year, that is for sure.