5G and foldable smartphones dominated CES – but when will they launch?

CES-2019
CES-2019

Each January the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas showcases the new year’s upcoming tech products. 5G and foldable screens should be 2019’s defining mobile technologies – but how quickly will they arrive?

5G was the talk of CES

5G technology will enable mobile internet that’s 10 to 100 times faster than current 4G technology. Perhaps more importantly, it will (eventually) feature zero latency – delivering real-time virtual reality experiences and remote control for robotic surgery and autonomous vehicles. South Korea went live with the first commercial 5G service on December 1st – and most major manufacturers are expected to launch 5G devices throughout 2019.

However, no 5G smartphones have been released yet – but that hasn’t stopped handset manufacturers and chip designers from rushing to claim the lead.

Samsung Galaxy S10

OK, so Samsung’s flagship 5G smartphone wasn’t on-show at CES. But they sent out invitations to a February 20th event – emblazoned with ‘10’ and ‘Samsung Galaxy’ – while the event was running.

Samsung-Galaxy-S10-invitation

Samsung also used their CES keynote speech to confirm that they’re working with 5G-ready US carriers (AT&T, Sprint and Verizon) and reminded the audience that they’re the first company to receive FCC approval for their commercial 5G equipment.

Leaks suggest the S10 will have a 6.1-inch AMOLED display, with a ‘hole punch’ camera cutout, and the Snapdragon 855 processor. Rumors also suggest that a 6.4-inch S10 Plus and cheaper 5.8 inch S10 Lite could launch too.

Samsung is clearly keen to take the lead in 5G smartphones – even ahead of unveiling their first compatible device, next month.

Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 855

Qualcomm’s LTE technologies helped to drive, popularize and advance 4G – and its Snapdragon 855 processor will power many of the first 5G smartphones (although the company’s X50 modem will also be required, for 5G speeds).

So, it’s no surprise that 5G was the main theme of its impressive booth – with prototype phones from Oppo, Vivo, and Xiaomi on display (although non-functional).

AT&T also partnered with Qualcomm to offer an ‘XR’ (extended reality) cliff-diving experience – using a VR headset with a Snapdragon 855 streaming VR video over 5G, from a nearby base station.

Ultimately, app developers will create the amazing experiences that leverage 5G’s blazing speed and low latency – but Qualcomm clearly feel that real-time VR (or ‘XR’) is a key benefit.

Intel

Intel was keen to promote their upcoming 5G system-on-chip wireless base station – even if their interactive puzzle games were reported as ‘uninteresting’ attempts to demonstrate 5G’s low latency.

However – and again – the deeper message is that Intel seems keen to flex their 5G credentials, as they clearly understand that it will define the 2019 mobile technology market.

Foldable, dual-screen smartphones

Handset manufacturers have saturated the market with devices for any hand size – and they’re available with pixel densities that go beyond the ability of the human eye to perceive.

Foldable screens are the obvious next step to increase screen real-estate, without making handsets any bigger – and that’s why Samsung’s foldable tech demo caught headlines, late last year.

However, Samsung has been beaten to market by a manufacturer that you probably haven’t heard of.

Samsung Galaxy X

Samsung’s foldable tech first saw the light of day back in November – although the smartphone itself was kept in shadows.

We already know it has two 4.6-inch screens that become a 7.3-inch (1536 x 2152) tablet when it’s unfolded, with a third 3.5-inch screen for use when folded – and that developers can use Android’s ‘screen continuity’ API to design multiple app layouts.

Samsung-Galaxy-X

But the foldable Samsung Galaxy X was shown-off to client companies that visited Samsung’s stand at CES, according to The Investor.

Apparently, Samsung plans to launch the Galaxy X in the first half of 2019, but only plans to produce around 1 million units – around a tenth of the quota set for the Galaxy S modes.

Industry sources suggest that the foldable smartphone will be targeted at men in their 40s – as they can afford its $1,200+ price-tag, tend to prefer larger screens, and like to multi-task for work and entertainment.

Royole FlexPai

Royole got a lot of attention at CES – with the world’s first foldable smartphone.

Beating major manufacturers like Samsung and LG to market is an impressive accolade. However, its FlexPai device has been poorly received, with reports of lagging performance – despite being powered by the new Snapdragon 855 mobile processor.

Royole’s FlexPai may be the first to market – but Samsung could still deliver the first satisfying foldable phone experience

Just like 5G, it seems that foldable phones are important enough technologies that some manufacturers will rush to claim the first-to-market status – even if they’re not quite ready. So, next month’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona should be exciting.

 

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