In October 2017, the Chinese manufacturer ZTE released the Axon M as the world’s first foldable smartphone. However, it was not a real foldable phone, simply because the device did not have a flexible display but two separate screens. Nevertheless, the Chinese manufacturer also works in the background on a telephone with a flexible screen. At the end of last year, ZTE patented a folding phone with a tablet design. This time LetsGoDigital shows 3D renders of a ZTE folding smartphone with a clamshell design.
Folding telephone with an elongated flexible screen
In April last year, ZTE Corporation filed a design patent with the Global Design Database of the WIPO (World Intellectual Property Office). The design patent was published on 5 March 2019 and contains a dozen sketches of a foldable ZTE smartphone with a flexible screen.
The device has a folding phone design; when you unfold the phone, you have a relatively long screen at your disposal. So it is not a wide tablet-sized screen, as seen in the recently introduced Samsung Galaxy Fold and Huawei Mate X.
There are rumors that Motorola will choose a clamshell model in the form of a new RAZR telephone. Apple also seems to be seriously investigating the possibilities of such a foldable iPhone, and Samsung will eventually also introduce various types of foldable smartphones, including a clamshell design.
However, there is a striking difference between the patented smartphone model and a regular clamshell phone. The foldable smartphone from ZTE does not exactly fold in the middle. The upper part is shorter. Once folded, a piece of screen surface remains visible. Probably incoming calls, messages, and notifications will be shown.
If we look at the thickness of the mobile device, it is striking that the housing is significantly thicker than the display part that you bend. This will undoubtedly benefit the hand position, so the heaviest part of the phone will rest in your palm. The more so because the fold line is not exactly in the middle.
When you flip open the foldable ZTE smartphone, you get an elongated full-screen display. The screen edges are remarkably narrow. The receiver is incorporated in the upper screen edge, furthermore you have one large screen surface at your disposal. At the level of the hinge, a small notch is made in the display on both sides so that the display here is slightly narrower.
This foldable smartphone model has a double camera with a flash at the back. Also, on the front, in the folding construction, the device seems to have a (double) camera. Remarkably, no camera can be seen when you fold the phone completely open. It remains a mystery how you can make a selfie with this smartphone.
It seems unlikely that a camera will be placed under the flexible screen. This technology is not yet sufficiently developed to be applied in a regular smartphone, let alone in a foldable smartphone model. Also a fingerprint scanner is not visible on the foldable phone of ZTE; perhaps it is processed in the side, in the on / off button.
Furthermore, the patent illustrations show that the ZTE foldable smartphone has two buttons on the right side. Directly below is the slot for the SIM card and the memory compartment. Furthermore, there is a connection at the bottom of the device to charge the phone. Since ZTE has already announced its first 5G smartphone, the Axon 10 Pro, you can assume that it will also be a 5G foldable smartphone, just like the Mate X from Huawei.
Future ZTE smartphones
ZTE has had a difficult period. In-home country China, smartphone sales have declined dramatically in recent years. While the company still accounted for 6% of the Chinese smartphone market in 2014, the company is not yet responsible for 1% of sales in China. However, ZTE has successfully made the transition to Japan and America, and to a lesser extent also to Europe.
Last year, however, ZTE Corp was hit hard by the US Department of Commerce. The company had violated the trade sanctions that had been in force on Iran and North Korea and had to go deep into the pouch for this. American companies would no longer be allowed to supply ZTE with components for seven years. The company headed for bankruptcy; eventually, it was able to make a deal with America. An arrangement was made where ZTE had to pay a fine of 900 million dollars.
Logically, the focus in the coming years will be on selling new devices and not so much on bringing expensive innovations that do not immediately result in higher sales figures. Nonetheless, the smartphone manufacturer can not afford to get completely into the background. You can also assume that ZTE is still engaged in the development of a foldable smartphone with a flexible display.
Last year, ZTE already announced that the Axon M would receive a successor. Although it was not possible to buy this foldable smartphone in the Netherlands, the company has had success worldwide with this model. Little is known about his successor yet; possible that this is a device as Visionox recently patented, but it can also be a foldable phone with a flexible screen. In any case, the Chinese manufacturer intends to continue to add interesting and challenging models to its model range.
Curious which folding models other smartphone manufacturers are developing? View our full foldable smartphone overview.