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Look but don’t touch as smartphone flexible future unfolds

BARCELONA (Reuters) – Flexible and folding formats framed the future of smartphones in this week, manufacturers that focus on new forms in an attempt to jolt the market out of uniformity and re-stimulate the sale.

People take photos of the new ner of X-smartphone ahead of the Mobile World Congress (MWC 19) in Barcelona, Spain, February 24, 2019. REUTERS/Sergio Perez

But anyone hoping to tap or swipe Huawei ‘ s Pairs of X, a smartphone that runs from the screen to the front and back, was quickly disappointed in Barcelona the Mobile World Congress.

First cheers were quickly followed by gasps from the Chinese company unveiled the eye-catching 2,299 euro ($2,600) price tag, but that is with a 5G connection.

This is even more than the Samsung Galaxy Fold, which was unveiled last week and will be for a price of $1,980 when it goes on sale in a number of markets in April. It was to see in Barcelona in a glass case like a museum artifact.

During the hands-off attitude gives no company has a consumer-ready device, 2019 would go down in history as the year of the foldable Ben Wood, head of research at CCS Insight, said, adding that the new format is still in its infancy.

“But we are in the stone age of devices with flexible screens, it’s a whole new phase of the experiments after the sea of smartphone sameness that we have seen for the last ten years.”

Samsung took the opposite approach of Huawei due to its folding screen on the inside of the device, with another smaller screen on the front panel for use when it is closed.

“That was the solution we felt was the best for a long life,” Samsung’s European Director of Mobile, Portfolio & Commercial Strategy Mark Notton told Reuters.

Smartphone makers have tried to innovate to persuade consumers to upgrade devices that already meet most of their needs, in an attempt to reverse falling sales.

And although more vendors will follow soon with their own take, foldable displays, 2019 will not be the year they go on the mainstream market analysts Canalys said. They remain the only ultra-luxury devices with less than 2 million expected to be shipped worldwide this year, Canalys added.

The mobile market slipped 1.2 per cent in 2018, research firm Gartner says that, although they expected that the growth of 1.6 percent in 2019, driven by the replacement of the cycles of the largest and most saturated markets of China, the United States and Western Europe.

GEARING UP FOR 5G

With 5G next-generation mobile networks are not always available on a large scale until 2023 in the United States and China and 2026 in Europe, analysts say that the vast majority of the customers will buy the latest 4G devices including the new Samsung Galaxy S10.

Nevertheless, manufacturers such as LG were keen to show that they could squeeze out 5G technology in the 4G smartphone form, although most lacked start or pricing information.

Chinese maker OnePlus had a 5G device with a video-game using a 5G connection on the show, but the visitors were teased with just a glimpse of the screen of the phone is in a case.

“For us it means the launch of commercial availability, it does not mean that PowerPoint,” OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei told Reuters.

“We are convinced that we are one of the first with a commercially available smartphone in Europe,” he said, adding that this would in the first half of the year 2019.

Slideshow (2 Images)

Xiaomi Corp, which is on the fifth place in smartphone shipments in the last quarter according to IDC, did reveal information about prices, together with the first 5G device.

“Xiaomi has fired the starting gun with a $599 price. That brings tears in the eyes of many other mobile phone makers,” Wood said, adding that many sub-scale manufacturers such as Sony, LG and others, it can be difficult to get any kind of margin on 5G.

Sony has not a 5G device, relying instead on the property of a major Hollywood studio to create a new line of Xperia phones with a 21:9 aspect ratio optimized for viewing movies and Netflix content.

Additional reporting by Douglas Busvine, Jack Stubbs and Isla Binnie; Editing by Alexander Smith

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