Of all the news trickling out of Mobile World Congress this year, the most interesting products were either foldables or rollables. It’s a showcase of a lot of eye-catching phones and devices that often don’t make it to America, but that doesn’t mean we can’t look on in envy or use this as a possible preview of the technology that will shape future phones in the US.
One of the first foldables we saw out of MWC was Oppo’s Find N2 Flip. This thing is basically the Chinese company’s version of Samsung’s Galaxy Z Flip 4, except its external screen is in portrait instead of landscape orientation. It’s currently the largest cover screen on a flip-style foldable, at 3.26 inches. This makes the Find N2 Flip easier to use when framing up selfies with the device closed and, thanks to its size, allows for more lines of messages to be read.
Oddly, though, the home screen here doesn’t take advantage of the larger canvas and its clock widget actually uses a smaller font than the Galaxy Z Flip 4. The company did take pains to emphasize that the crease on the Find N2 Flip’s screen is 65 percent less visible than the last generation. According to Engadget UK Bureau Chief Mat Smith, though, you can still see the little wrinkle, so … [[shrug]]
For those of us in the US, this comparison is more of a theoretical exercise since the Oppo phone won’t be available stateside, retailing only in Europe and China. If you still want more details on this device, make sure to check out Mat’s hands-on.
This week, we also learned that Honor’s Magic VS is coming to more parts of the world. Specifically, it’ll be coming to Europe for 1,599 Euros, or about $1,690. This is the first time since we saw a prototype in December that the company is sharing availability info outside of China.
The Magic VS is similar to Samsung’s Galaxy Z Fold 4, which is to say that it is a regular-sized smartphone that opens up to become a roughly 8-inch tablet. It’s not a brand new product at MWC, but it’s nice to see more information about more foldable phones giving Samsung some competition in the space.
It’s not just Oppo and Honor ramping up the competition, either. Relatively lesser known phone maker Tecno showed up at MWC with the Phantom V Fold — a more affordable foldable with fairly impressive specs. The Phantom V Fold has a 7.85-inch screen on the inside with the company touting a “virtually crease-free” display like Oppo did.
Senior editor Richard Lai said that at the right angle, the wrinkle is certainly not obvious and it’s better than Samsung’s, but he added that it’s still not as subtle as the Xiaomi Mix Fold 2. On the outside, the Phantom has a 6.42-inch Full HD panel, as well as a round camera hump housing a triple-sensor imaging system. The main and telephoto cameras are 50-megapixels, while the ultra-wide setup is 13MP. There’s also a pair of punch-hole cameras on the two screens.
The Phantom V Fold is powered by the same MediaTek Dimensity 9000+ processor as the one in the Oppo Find N2 Flip, and for the base model that comes with 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage, the company is charging $1,099. Compared to the Samsung and Oppo versions of tablet-sized foldables, that’s hundreds of dollars less. But again, as with so many products that were announced at MWC this year, the Phantom V Fold will not be coming to the US. It’ll be available to those in India, Latin America and parts of Africa where Tecno is typically active.
The fact that we’re reaching a point where foldables are starting to get relatively affordable means, unfortunately, that they’re about to become common. And therefore, they’re going to be passe. So 2022. In 2023, the hot buzzword is rollables. At least, based on the concept devices Lenovo and Motorola brought to MWC.
Lenovo showed off a laptop with a screen that extends upwards and away from the keyboard, and the prototype itself appeared impressively thin and sturdy. Meanwhile, Motorola brought back its Rizr concept device and this second version has a 5-inch display that rolls out to hit 6.5 inches when you need a larger canvas for video or a long Best of Redditor Updates post. The device that was shown off in Barcelona appeared to work, but multiple outlets like ArsTechnica and Techcrunch expressed reservations about build quality so… Don’t be surprised if this format never comes to market.
It’s not like Motorola and Lenovo are the first companies to try rolling screens, by the way. Far from it. LG and TCL have made various prototypes showcasing different form factors with flexible, sliding and rolling screens. In fact, LG’s first rolling screens prototypes showed up as far back as CES 2014. It’s clear manufacturers know smartphones have gotten good enough that people don’t want to buy a new one every year or two, and are trying to find a new shape that will entice shoppers this decade. The current camera and software race between Apple, Google and Samsung is starting to induce yawns, and the new features they are adding aren’t particularly exciting.
Other phone makers have spent the last few years focusing on battery and charging tech, and we saw some of that at MWC this year too. Xiaomi showed off a demo of 300-watt charging that could fully charge a device in just 5 minutes. Meanwhile, Realme shared global release information about its GT3, which is compatible with 240W charging and can get completely juiced in just under 10 minutes. OnePlus also showcased a concept phone with a liquid cooling system that would allow improved performance and charging times. With the drops in temperature that this should bring, OnePlus could deliver boosts to games by three to four frames per second, as well as saving 30 to 45 seconds of charging time.
Besides new formats and battery tech, we also saw companies focus on sustainability and repairability. The Nokia G22, for example, is the result of a collaboration between parent company HMD and iFixit, and follows in the footsteps of Apple, Google and Samsung in offering official repair guides and parts. As Right to Repair bills and laws get passed in multiple states in the US and elsewhere in the world, this looks to be a growing trend in mobile phones that can help us be more environmentally conscious.