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MWC 2019 Device Blog: Day 3 Unfolding Innovation

by Ken Hyers | 2月 25, 2019

Mobile World Congress (MWC 2019) - the largest and arguably the most important mobile industry event – is taking place in Barcelona, Spain, from Feb 25 to Feb 28, exhibiting plethora of new devices and setting the hottest trends in 2019.

As usual, Strategy Analytics has a large team of analysts across Smartphones, Drones, Robots, Tablets, Wearables, Components, Smart Home and Connected Cars in attendance.

Please click here to meet our DEVICES analysts at the show.

MWC 2019 has just started, officially opening on Monday February 25th, but for devices, the main themes of the show are already clear: Foldable Display Smartphones and 5G.

Samsung chose to unveil its first foldable display smartphone (folderphone?), the Samsung Galaxy Fold, last week in order to get ahead of the MWC hype cycle and establish itself as the first major smartphone vendor to unveil the new class of device. At its booth the phone is displayed in multiple glass cases, surrounded by a barrier, with a security guard standing close by. Overkill? Perhaps. On the other hand, its biggest Android rival in the phone business has a booth set up next to Samsung’s and facing the Korean vendor’s folderphone is a display containing Huawei’s folderphone.

Huawei Mate X

The new Huawei Mate X is a different take on the folderphone from what Samsung rolled out last week. The Mate X, unlike Samsung’s Fold, has its display wrapped around the outside of the device, so that when it is closed, the entire display is still visible, across the front and back of the device. Because of the way the hinge on the Mate X works and the fact that the display is on the outside of the device and therefore has a larger folding radius, unlike the Samsung Fold, there is no gap between the two halves when the Mate X is closed. The Mate X has a larger display (6.6”) than the Samsung Fold, and also unlike Samsung’s offering, has 5G.

huawei-mate-x-1

There are some niggles regarding the Huawei Mate X. The display wraps around the outside, raising concerns about its durability since it is completely unprotected from the environment (and anything else it shares a pocket with, such as coins, keys, etc.). It’s 5G capable, but 5G coverage in most countries in 2019 will be quite limited, meaning most of the time it will be operating on 4G networks. But the biggest concern is undoubtedly around its eye-watering price; at €2,299 it will be the most expensive mass-production phone on the market in 2019. Most consumers though won’t have to ask themselves whether it’s really worth that much however. Once it goes on sale in 2H 2019 Strategy Analytics estimates that Huawei will be able to produce just a few hundred thousand of the devices, meaning that most consumers won’t even see one in a store, much less have a chance to buy one in 2019.

Foldables are the most important new market segment in smartphones. Though they will represent just a fraction of total smartphone volumes and value, the $2 billion worldwide folder market in 2019 will define the design direction of high-end smartphones into the next decade.

 

LG V50 ThinQ 5G

LG recently announced that it would not introduce a foldable display smartphone in the near term, saying in effect that the technology was not yet mature enough. Instead, at MWC 2019 it unveiled its first 5G smartphone, the V50 ThinQ 5G. The V50 has a 6.4” OLED display, Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 855 SoC and a 4,000 mAh battery. The phone debuts a new biometrics technology that unlocks the phone by reading the veins in a users’ hands. Why this is better than a fingerprint reader is unclear, but it does unlock a new category for LG in “firsts” for its phone.

 

While LG had just days previously stated that it would not yet participate in the foldable display space, it apparently couldn’t resist a nod in that direction. LG has made an accessory for the V50, a phone case that also incorporates a second screen. When not in use, the phone folds up like a book. The second screen is 6.2” and based on LG’s demonstrations at MWC, it seems they see its primary use case for the second screen is as a game controller. Pricing for the accessory (and the V50) was not announced. The V50 will be available “summer 2019” and in the USA will come to both Verizon and Sprint.

LG-V50-ThinQ-Dual-Screen-G8

There were a number of other 5G smartphones announced at MWC 2019.

From Xiaomi came the Mi Mix 3, with the Snapdragon 855 modem and 6GB RAM, 64GB/128GB memory, for a price of $680.

From ZTE comes the Axon 10 Pro 5G, also with the Snapdragon 855 and a 6.7” 1080p display. The Axon 10 Pro 5G offers 3 rear facing cameras and an in-display fingerprint reader and will be available in China and Europe in 2019.

There will be many more foldable display phones and 5G phones (and foldable 5G phones) announced in 2019. There were a number of concepts displayed at the show. For instance TCL (maker of Alcatel, BlackBerry and Palm phones) showed off its own prototype of a foldable display smartphone. But the phone was so fragile that even TCL staffers at the booth were not allowed to touch it. OPPO and Xiaomi are expected to introduce their own take on the foldable display smartphone, likely incorporating a wrap-around display as Huawei has done. And Motorola will introduce its own “RAZR” foldable display phone later this year as well. This year is shaping up to be the most innovative one yet in terms of smartphone technology design. Strategy Analytics’ Emerging Device Technologies service will be keeping a close eye on all of these trends throughout the year.

That wraps up today’s MWC 2019 device review. Come back tomorrow to see what other devices caught our eyes at the show.

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