The Best Folding Phones for 2021: What’s Available Now

When it comes to foldable phones, Samsung just hit the ball out of the park with its third-generation flagship foldable models: the Galaxy Z Fold 3 and the Galaxy Z Flip 3. It’s fair to say that early reviews have judged the new phones to be home runs. No, they’re not perfect — not yet — but the third try makes it clear that folding smartphones will be a valid design alternative to the “Great Glass Slab” from now on.

For the moment, folding phones come at a premium. Despite their hefty price tags, the marketplace for foldables continues to heat up. Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has predicted that foldable smartphones will soon become a “must-have” offering for major smartphone brands. The compact, hybrid folding phone-slash-tablet combo is designed for people who seek more screen real estate, but dislike the newer gigantic phablets. The small models are for those who always longed for their clamshells of old.

In addition to Samsung’s new handsets, the few foldable phones available sport a variety of styles and forms, while TCL has famously experimented with less conventional design concepts. We expect folding phones from companies such as Oppo, Xiaomi, TCL, and Apple, eventually, though some may target local markets.

As companies like Samsung, Motorola, and Huawei lead the charge for a creative overhaul of the smartphone genre, we present the best foldable phones available today and models to look forward to.

Folding phones available now

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3
Ajay Kumar/Digital Trends

The smart money had it right: Samsung, as anticipated, released the third generation of its flagship foldable phone, the Galaxy Z Fold 3. The reception for this product has been overwhelmingly positive and most of the earlier predictions regarding upgrades to the handset — S Pen support, IPX8 rating water resistance, and an under-display camera — have come to pass.

The 6.2-inch 5G smartphone is available in Phantom Black, Phantom Green, and Phantom Silver. When open, you get 7.6 inches of AMOLED 2X screen made with Corning Gorilla Glass Victus. An additional panel layer and protective film make the Fold 3’s interior main screen more durable. Screens are accompanied by Dolby Atmos and stereo speakers and a refresh rate of 120Hz. The under display camera is hidden beneath the main screen. You can split the screen into three apps and then open five more via pop-up for multitasking. The Fold 3 sports 12MP telephoto, 12MP wide-angle, and 12MP ultra wide angle cameras in an Armor Aluminum frame.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The 4.2-inch Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 — in Cream, Green, Lavender, or Phantom Black — debuted alongside its sibling, the Z Fold 3 and is now available. The beloved clamshell design is intact with a whole lot more goodies, such as an IPX8 water resistance rating.

The 6.7-inch dynamic AMOLED 2X, 120Hz display offers a bright, clear, responsive visual, while the 1.9-inch cover screen shows and lets you interact with notifications. The glass is both flexible and durable with a new protective layer and film. The exterior front cover and back cover are made with durable Gorilla Glass. When it comes to shooting pics and selfies, the Flip 3 has you covered with a 10MP front, 12MP ultra wide, and 12MP wide-angle camera and selfies from the dual rear camera. Split your screen in two to multitask. The 3,300mAh battery adjusts based on your daily use.

Motorola Razr (2020)

Motorola Raze 2020

This newest model is Motorola’s successor to the Razr 2019 and addresses many of the complaints about the older phone, including a lack of splash resistance. The Razr 2020, available unlocked, heavily resembles the look of the older model, with the same size, clamshell design, and dimensions, as well as the internal 6.2-inch 21:9 foldable display and external 2.7-inch Quick View display. It also runs the same software — though the Quick View display can now run any app, accomplish quick tasks, and reply to messages. The new device sports 3D curved glass on both sides with an aluminum frame in Black, Gold, and Gray. The chin at the bottom is smoother and smaller, and the fingerprint sensor is now on the back of the phone.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5G

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5G
Samsung

The original Samsung Galaxy Z Flip was upgraded to include 5G. With its 6.7-inch AMOLED display and 2636 × 1080 resolution, the updated Z Flip appeals to a certain class of buyer. While there is a noticeable crease in the middle of the device at the bend area, it is hard to see when looking directly at the device. A Flex Mode detects when the phone is half-open and automatically separates the interface into two screens for certain apps.

With Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 865 Plus processor, 8GB RAM, and 256GB storage, the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip’s chipset is up there with the high-end flagships. The device has a 3,300mAh battery and the ability to charge or share power wirelessly to other devices. It also features a pair of 12-megapixel wide-angle and ultrawide-angle cameras. While its website says this model is currently out of stock, Samsung promises the supply will be replenished soon.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 5G

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 5G
Andrew Martonik/Digital Trends

The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 is still available, despite the newer model. It features a 7.6-inch inner touchscreen, a 6.2-inch cover touchscreen, and a 12MP telephoto camera lens. It runs on a powerful Snapdragon 865 Plus processor and a sleek body. Samsung has outfitted the device with the latest Ultra Thin Glass (UTG), which made the Z Fold sturdy. The hinge, which uses tiny bristles to banish dust and debris, is a huge improvement over the original Fold.

Microsoft Surface Duo

Microsoft Surface Duo
Jeremy Kaplan/Digital Trends

Microsoft released the Surface Duo, a dual-screen, Android 10-powered phone with a signature design that showcases a split where the two screens meet. A pair of 5.6-inch AMOLED displays make up the Surface Duo, each with a resolution of 1,800 × 1,350 at 401 pixels per inch. The phone can fold completely closed, open like a book, or fold back on itself for single-screen use.

The high-resolution display opens to 8.1 inches with a 3:2 aspect ratio and a resolution of 2700 × 1800 pixels, covered by Corning’s Gorilla Glass, and supports the Surface Slim Pen. A new icon type groups a pair of apps to launch them simultaneously side by side, one per screen. The Surface Duo runs the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 platform with 6GB of RAM and 128GB or 256GB of storage.

Folding phones available only in China

There are numerous innovative, high-quality folding phones made by Chinese companies that are only available for the Chinese market. We cover them here because they are available, and perhaps in the future, they will have more widespread distribution.

Huawei Mate X2

Huawei Mate X2
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The Huawei Mate X2 is a departure from the previous version of the phone, the Huawei Mate X. The newer model eschews the folding-back-on-itself design in favor of an open-book style similar to the Samsung Galaxy Z Folds. Unfolded, it features an 8-inch, 90Hz, 2,480 x 2,200 pixel OLED display, while on the closed front of the phone, you get a 6.45-inch, 90Hz OLED screen with a 2,700 x 1,160 pixel resolution. Huawei uses an unusual wedge design for the body so that when the device is closed, the phone is completely flat with no gap between the two halves. The 295-gram weight is distributed evenly, so the phone always feels balanced and comfortable. It has so far only launched in China, where it starts at the local price of $2,740.

Huawei

Royole FlexPai 2

Royole Flexpai 2
Royole

The Royole FlexPai was the world’s first commercial foldable smartphone released to the Chinese market. This obscure company has since released an update, the FlexPai 2, which is much improved from the original version — and is still only available in China. The new model features a 7.8-inch unfolded display with a resolution of 1920 x 1440 pixels and a 4:3 aspect ratio. When folded, the main and secondary displays measure 5.5 inches (1,440 x 900 pixels) and 5.4 inches (1,440 x 810 pixels), respectively. The FlexPai 2 folds closed flush with magnets. The Android-based WaterOS 2.0 makes for smooth navigation, aided by a Snapdragon 865 chipset, 4,000mAh of battery, and either 8GB or 12GB of RAM. You can purchase 256GB or 512GB of storage. Royole FlexPai 2 retails for 9,988 RMB (China) or $1,544 (U.S.).

Royole

Xiaomi Mi Mix Fold

Xiaomi MI MIX FOLD
Xiaomi

The Xiomi Mi Mix Fold comes equipped with an 8.01-inch, WQHD+ resolution, flexible internal display with a 4:3 aspect ratio, and a 6.52-inch AMOLED screen and debuts the company’s Surge C1 Image Signal Processor and Liquid Lens for pro photos. Its quad-speaker setup, powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 processor, 5,020mAh battery, and 67-watt fast charging, offers a premium experience. It can show one billion colors, tuned by Xiaomi’s color calibration algorithm, while the Dolby Vision and HDR10+ support and DCI-P3 color gamut create highly dynamic and life-like images via a 90Hz refresh rate and a 2520 x 840 pixel resolution.

Powered by Xiaomi’s A.I. algorithm, the Mi Mix Fold’s displays generate images and videos that can double the image resolution from 720p to 1440p or enhance video quality from 480p to 1440p. The Mi Mix Fold was released in China, where it costs the local equivalent of about $1,543.

Xiaomi

Folding phones from concept to rumor mill

As usual, the rumor mill is buzzing about next-generation folding phones. Here are a few newcomers we may soon see.

Google Pixel FoldGoogle Pixel Fold

A leaked internal document last year suggested that Google is working on a foldable Pixel. Nothing much is known about what features it will have beyond the ability to fold, although the leak suggests that the new foldable could be part of the range of Google smartphones announced with the Pixel 6, with a preview in late 2021 and a launch sometime in 2022. Industry observers say the new folding design could be an in-folding design that closes inward. Rumors also circle around a 7.6-inch screen size and the same ultra-thin glass as the Galaxy Z Fold foldables.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold S

Samsung is reportedly working on the Galaxy Z Fold S, said to feature a similar design to Microsoft’s Surface Duo in that it will feature a 360-degree hinge capable of outward and inward folding. Unlike the Surface Duo, industry speculation suggests that it won’t be a dual-screen phone but instead will feature a single flexible OLED, much like the Z Fold 3 and Z Flip 3. Other than that, nothing else is known, and the chatter around this prospective product has since gone quiet.

OPPO X 2021

Oppo X 2021
Chinese mobile phone maker Oppo developed a prototype called OPPO X 2021, a rollable concept phone with a scroll-like display featuring an OLED flexible screen and measuring between 6.7 and 7.4 inches. Its dynamic sliding frame, powered by a Roll Motor powertrain, lets you extend and retract the screen without hard folding or visible creases — a 6.8 mm central axis lets the display bend without leaving any visible traces or creases on the screen. The fixed frame and sliding frame combo protect the device, while the side button locks and unlocks it to extend and retract the rollable display. With two built-in drive motors generating a constant force for the display, stress is designed to be equally distributed. A 2-in-1 plate supports the display with zero gaps between the segments. A recent hands-on video (in French) by Brandon Le Proktor is available on YouTube.

TCL Rollable and Trifold

Rollable and trifold rollable folding smartphones are inhabiting the imagination of designers at TCL. These designs use ButterflyHinge and DragonHinge technologies to allow phones to seamlessly expand into tablet-sized devices. The Trifold starts as a 10-inch tablet in its normal state and then morphs into a 6.65-inch tablet, all with a 3K display and a 20.8:9 aspect ratio. The rollable phone outwardly appears like a universal 6.75-inch smartphone initially. When you need a bigger surface, you can easily unroll the screen to a tablet size with a 7.5-inch display. The movement launches the phone’s mechanical operation, and it seamlessly tucks the OLED screen into the phone.

 iPhone Flip or iPhone Fold

There’s no question that Apple has a foldable phone in the works, but the so-called iPhone Flip or iPhone Fold is nowhere near even a whisper from Apple. Despite Samsung’s current dominance of the consumer folding phone realm, Apple has a way of catching up and surpassing competitors when it decides to enter a product space. Indeed, many Apple users, despite excitement over a folding phone, are loath to cross over into Android territory and are willing to wait until an iOS folding phone becomes available.

Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo — who has a decent track record for accuracy — says a foldable iPhone will be released in 2023, featuring an 8-inch foldable OLED display with QHD+ (Quad-HD, 2560 x 1440 pixel) resolution. According to a new research note reported out by MacRumors, Apple could sell up to 20 million units — its predicted shipment — during the launch year. Kuo named SDC as the exclusive display supplier and Samsung Foundry as the exclusive DDI foundry provider. Kuo also predicts that Apple will adopt TPK’s silver nanowire touch tech.

Crack Apple prognosticator Jon Prosser says the company tested different styles of foldable handsets, including a fold-out tablet, a la Samsung Galaxy Z Fold, and a Razr-like clamshell. Those willing to hazard a guess believe that Apple will go with the clamshell, but there’s no evidence to suggest Apple has made a hard and fast decision.

Initially, the Apple prediction was based on patent information that revealed the company is working with hinges or multiple folds. Apple has now filed a continuation patent that highlights a more durable folding screen. A foldable iPhone could feature a new, crack-resistant display made of mixed materials — not just flexible glass. According to an updated patent application, Apple has proposed using ceramic particles to reinforce the protective layer of a folding smartphone. Should that come to pass, observers in the know say Apple will emerge on top in sales.

Foldable Phones FAQ

Foldable phones represent the most important trend in the smartphone market today and for the coming years, as they are the one of the few ways to provide phones with multiple screens to facilitate productivity, entertainment, and compact convenience. Plus, they’re just really cool. We give you the lowdown on how to decide whether a folding phone is the right choice for you and which style it should be.

What sets a foldable phone apart from a normal phone?

There are two major genres of foldable phones: a tablet that folds in half and a clamshell that’s reminiscent of the folding cell phones of the early 2000s. Both designs are compelling. With a large foldable phone like the Galaxy Z Fold 3 you get a generous screen for videos, games, reading, and web browsing. Splitting the screen into multiple sections lets you display different content while using apps, watching videos, messaging, or zipping through your Google photos. The Galaxy Z Flip 3, for example, offers unique features, and can also work as a tripod while taking pictures with the front or back cameras.

Whether you choose a large or small model, a foldable phone boosts the value of your device. Large screen devices fold out to tablet size while a smaller size clamshell fits easily into your pocket. Samsung’s App Continuity feature gives folding phones flexibility to adapt apps for more than one screen on the fly.

Who should consider a foldable phone?

A big-screen folding phone does things flat phones can’t. It lets you play games, read PDFs, and create content in unique ways — all at the same time. Even more than the largest slab phone, it can serve as your exclusive device for most of the day, allowing you to multitask on split windows and screens. If you need your phone for multitasking, movie watching, viewing maps, and using productivity or art apps, a folding phone may be in your future.

Which type of foldable phone should I pick?

When deciding which foldable phone you want, first decide what functions are most important to you. Are you looking for productivity? Or are you looking for the most convenient small device that fits in your pants pocket? Sometimes it’s not an either/or question. If you want to use your mobile device for reading, either size makes a great reader, but for larger format documents, a fold-out phone makes more sense. While it may seem like a larger screen is best for video watching, a clamshell is both lighter and more widescreen compatible. Depending on your favorite games, you may pick the size based on your gameplay preferences.

What can you expect to pay for a quality foldable phone?

Foldable phones are very expensive right now because they are made with new technology and processes that are still being perfected with materials still being sourced. You should expect to pay at least $1,000 for a high-quality foldable phone, which is the price of the Samsung Z Flip 3. The clamshell style is pocketable, but with nicely updated screen technology. For an even larger phone, like the Galaxy Z Fold 3, you can expect to pay at least $1,800 to $2,000. However, you may get a bargain if you can trade in an older phone or get in on the ground floor of sales offerings.

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