On a panel at the World Economic Forum, Huawei’s Ken Hu announced it will launch its first 5G phone in the middle of 2019 and what’s more it will have a foldable screen.
Flexible screens have been a novelty handset manufacturers have been looking to for years as they desperately look for some kind of differentiation within a category that matured long ago. A foldable screen theoretically enables some kind of clamshell form factor, which would open up to offer a tablet-sized screen. Rollable screens could allow even larger screen that could be retracted like blinds.
“In our first [5G] smartphone we’re going to introduce a foldable screen,” said Hu at the event. He was speaking on a panel that seemed more like a choreographed set of statements than a flowing discussion. Hu’s agenda seemed to be to big up the consumer benefits of 5G in the short term, with the apparent aim of creating buzz around the first 5G devices, such as the one Huawei is going to launch.
A core theme of Hu’s opening statement was the three pillars of 5G: enhanced mobile broadband, low latency and IoT. He explained that all three benefits will be enjoyed by consumers via HD streaming to big (foldable) screens, cloud-based AI enabled by low latency and the countless benefits of everything being constantly connected. It remains to be seen how desirable all this stuff is but it was a decent attempt at contradicting the prevailing view that 5G will take a while to warm up.
Also on the panel were representatives of Ericsson, BT and the GSMA. The BT guy expressed impatience about the development of cool application that will exploit 5G such as two-way video, VR/AR and AI. The Ericsson guy said there will be no killer app for 5G and noted that Europe seems to be more interested in industrial applications.
You can see the whole chat below. They go on to chat about other telecoms stuff and also geopolitical issues such as GDPR, the growing trade war between the US and China, and Huawei’s exclusion from certain markets due to security fears, but everyone pretty much ducked the tricky stuff.