Year of foldable phones: Best ones to show up in 2021

It wouldn't be an understatement to say, foldable phones have come of age in 2021. After the initial quirks, the industry has steadied itself to present a viable option for consumers wanting bigger screen real estate from their handhelds. Foldable phones are still an exclusive device and pretty expensive in comparison to the flagship smartphones, but considering their advantages, the phones like Galaxy Z Fold 2 and Motorola Razr 2020 have carved a niche for themselves.

Samsung brought about a critical change to its portfolio of foldable smartphones with Galaxy Z Fold 2, wherein it creased out the snags in its disastrous debutant. Huawei understood the significance of a firmer hinge and an "innie" design, which better protects the larger foldable screen, with the launch of Mate X2. LG hit the market with swiveling display, but with the company exiting the smartphone arena, the market is open for more players.

A handful of other smartphone companies are considering foldable phones lucrative. Xiaomi has boarded the bus with Mi Mix Fold – it's first foldable – while OPPO, Vivo, TCL, Google and even Apple are all expected to join the fray by next year. How many of these OEMs will deliver a device within this year is only for the time – and ongoing pandemic – to reveal, but it's now as clear as crystal that folding phones are the future.

Even though there are double foldable and fold and roll smartphones on the cards, the arena for 2021 seems poised on two form factors – the inward, book-like fold and flip designs. Here is our prediction of the best foldable phones to show up this year. If you want a fresh foldable phone in 2021, these are the options you would have.

Huawei Mate X2

Huawei has already introduced its third generation foldable phone – Mate X2 in China. The phone is not available outside of the home country, though rumors suggest it would launch globally soon. If it does, this rather expensive smartphone will be an option to consider.

The inward-folding Huawei Mate X2 comes with an 8-inch OLED panel offering a 90Hz refresh rate, while a 6.45-inch OLED with 2700x1160 pixel resolution makes for its cover screen. Powered by in-house Kirin 9000 SoC, the phone comes with 8GB RAM and 256 or 512GB of internal storage. It has a 4,500mAh capacity battery, the same as that on last year's Galaxy Z Fold 2, but with 55W fast charging, which is blistering quick. The Mate X2 is exorbitantly priced – RMB 17,999 (roughly $2,780) – but its optics don't disappoint. The foldable features Ultra Vision Leica quad-camera setup spearheaded by a 50MP primary camera touting OIS and f/1.9 lens.

Xiaomi Mi Mix Fold

Xiaomi is generally on the forefront of mobile technology but it is relatively a latecomer in the foldable phone market. That said, the company now has its first foldable – Mi Mix Fold – out (currently only in China) in three variants starting at CNY 9,999 (roughly $1,500). These include 12GB RAM and 256 or 512GB internal storage and the high-end 16GB +512GB storage.

Xiaomi, according to a recent report, has claimed that the Mi Mix Fold will be launching in Europe and other international markets toward the end of May. In Europe, the top of the line 16GB + 512GB variant is said to retail for EUR 1,999 (nearly $2,500). It is going to be a costly affair of course considering the phone's 8.01-inch OLED panel at 4:3 WQHD+ only offers a 60Hz refresh rate, though the 6.52-inch outer screen has a 90Hz refresh rate.

The Mi Mix Fold impresses with 900 nits brightness on the foldable display that supports HDR10+, has Harmon Kardon speakers, and 108MP primary camera, 8MP telephoto including liquid lens technology, and 13MP ultra-wide lens comprising the camera setup. Featuring Snapdragon 888 under the hood, the phone's 5,020mAh battery supports 67W fast charging.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3

The most anticipated foldable phone of the year is arguably the Galaxy Z Fold 3. Slated to thrive on the success of the predecessor, the new Fold model for 2021 is expected to be introduced with certain design alterations. The hinge is likely to be better sealed against dust, the hinge mechanism may be more tuned to bear the toil and to top it all off, the phone is going to – for the first time – get some sort of IP rating for dust- and water-proofing.

Samsung is rumored to be doing away with its rather successful Note series in favor of foldable devices. Therefore, it is speculated that the Z Fold 2 may include S Pen. There is no clarity on whether it will only support or even include a slot for the stylus onboard. For other specs, the phone will feature a Dynamic AMOLED 120Hz display, retain the triple camera setup, feature Snapdragon 888 with up to 16GB RAM and 512GB storage and pack only a 4,275mAh battery. The phone is expected to launch within the next couple of months.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3

Alongside the Galaxy Z Fold 3, Samsung is likely to launch a new clamshell foldable phone in Galaxy Z Flip 3. This is going to retain the aesthetics of its predecessor but is expected with a bigger and brighter outer screen. The camera module adjacent to the external display will be in vertical orientation, while its hinge mechanism is slated for an update.

Since Samsung wants to full-proof its fragile, eye-candy device, the Galaxy Z Flip 3 may have Gorilla Glass Victus on all sides and come with IP rating. The phone will be powered by Snapdragon 888 and may have support for S Pen, but its 3,300mAh battery that would support only 15W charging is going to be a deal-breaker.

OPPO foldable phone

OPPO has been teasing foldable and rollable phone prototypes for quite some time now but it's only for the first time expected to reveal a foldable phone officially. Rumors have hinted that OPPO foldable phone will launch this year and that this will not be the OPPO X 2021 rollable concept we have been anxiously waiting for, owing to its novelty.

Not much on the hardware and design is known about the OPPO foldable phone at the moment except for the fact that after having experimented with outward folding layouts, OPPO will be following its compatriots Huawei and Xiaomi to unveil Galaxy Z Fold-style inward folding phone. One of the rumors points at OPPO working on two foldable smartphones – a 7-inch and an 8-inch – simultaneously. Reportedly, the 7-inch unfolding screen variant is closer to mass production. Given the smaller screen size, this could be a foldable phone that is more affordable than the others above.