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CES 2019: The future of phones is... foldable?

The i logo The i 12/01/2019 Rhiannon Williams
© Provided by Johnston Publishing Ltd

While CES, the world's largest tech show, is not renowned for its smartphone announcements, this year's show kickstarted the industry's interest in what's to come for the year ahead.

The majority of phone makers will either be waiting for this year's Mobile World Congress (MWC) at the end of February or holding their own individual launch events, but the handful of phones exhibited in Las Vegas focused on the forthcoming arrival of 5G.

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Samsung confirmed it was planning to hold a launch event for the expected Galaxy S10 on 20 February, but also showed off a prototype of one of its 5G phones ahead of its sale date in the summer.

Video: Galaxy S10, 5G and foldable phones make news at CES 2019 (CNET)


Although the handset bears an extremely close resemblance to Samsung's current models, it is among the first 5G phones from a major vendor. Chipmaker Qualcomm also displayed 5G-enabled prototypes from Chinese brands Oppo, Vivo and Xiaomi on its booth - with the catch they're all primarily for the Chinese market.

Chinese phone brand Royole caused a fuss with its foldable smartphone, the FlexPai. Currently on sale in China for 8,999 yuan, or around £1,020, the handset unfolds into a 7.8-inch tablet and is built to withstand more than 200,000 bends. While its build quality does not quite match that of the more established phone makers, its exhibition is significant insofar as Royole has managed to leapfrog Samsung, which confirmed it was working on a folding device back in November.

a person standing in front of water: People watch an immersive video introduction to Qualcomm 5G technology at the Las Vegas Convention Centre (Photo: DAVID MCNEW/AFP/Getty Images) © Provided by Johnston Publishing Ltd People watch an immersive video introduction to Qualcomm 5G technology at the Las Vegas Convention Centre (Photo: DAVID MCNEW/AFP/Getty Images)

BlackBerry chief executive John Chen didn't mince his words when he told i that while the brand's smartphone legacy has high "emotional value," smart devices are "more important." While Chinese phone maker TCL continues to release handsets under the BlackBerry brand, the company has increasingly focused on selling security software in recent years - hardly surprising given its global market share had fallen to less than 0.0 per cent by 2017.

Expect more information from Samsung around the availability of its flexy phone on 20 February, and plenty more 5G phone announcements during and after MWC, before the next iPhone launch in early September.

Rhiannon Williams is reporting from CES in Las Vegas

Gallery: CES 2019: A look at some of the most innovative products from the event (Picture Services)


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