Once the Royole FlexPai debuted at CES 2019 we were off to the races for foldable phones – and two years later, the devices have matured enough that we can finally recommend the best above the rest. So here's our list of the best foldables you can buy right now.
Of course, not everyone can afford to buy a foldable, given that they're prohibitively expensive, even by phone standards: the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2, for instance, costs twice as much as the company's 2020 flagship Samsung Galaxy S20. That's the price of entry to get devices that combine the portability of phones, with unfolding inner displays that rival tablets for screen real estate.
Clamshell foldables are a bit more affordable, but they serve a different purpose: instead of unfolding with tablet-size screens, they fold up like old-school flip phones, bringing flagship functionality in a much more compact form factor.
On the whole, foldables have top specs that rival the highest-end flagships, and you'll get great performance out of them – and those released later in 2020 even have 5G connectivity.
But with twice (or more) the amount of display area as regular phones, standard foldables are about twice as heavy, too – and with the same battery capacity as typical flagships, running those large unfolded screens drains the battery faster.
Thus, foldables are more of a luxury than a reasonably-priced alternative to traditional smartphones, but we look forward to the development of the format: like all features that debuted on expensive flagships, we'll eventually see foldable tech trickle down to the mid-range and the best budget phones.
Without further ado then, here are the best foldables on the market you can buy right now, with standard foldables at the top, and clamshell foldables further down.
Best foldable phones
The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 is the successor to the Samsung Galaxy Fold, fixing its shortcomings and expanding on its design features. The Z Fold 2 is an 'innie' foldable, with an external display for basic tasks and an interior full display that's exposed when unfolded flat.
This secondary external screen has been seriously upgraded from the awkwardly small one on the outside of the original Fold, with a 6.2-inch display on the new foldable that extends from edge to edge. This makes the Galaxy Z Fold 2 look a lot like a conventional (albeit chunky) smartphone when it’s folded shut. The inner screen unfolds to 7.6 inches, and both displays have a punch-hole camera for a modernized appearance.
The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 has flagship specs: a Snapdragon 865 Plus chipset, 12GB of RAM, starting 256GB of storage (sadly not expandable), a 4,500mAh battery, and 5G support. You'll pay for the privilege, though: the foldable starts at $1,999 / £1,799 / AU$2,999 (about UAE 7,300).
Read our full Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 review
The Huawei Mate Xs is Huawei’s successor to the Huawei Mate X, and it’s an upgrade in a number of ways, resulting in a more durable device that still has the same excellent core design as the original Mate X. Unfortunately, it doesn't come with Google apps and services – meaning the Android 10 experience won't get Google upgrades and improvements, nor does the device have access to standbys like Google Maps.
Given that, the Huawei Mate Xs is still a very impressive device, and an excellent execution of the foldable concept. It's an 'outie' foldable, with only a single external screen that's either unfolded flat for an 8-inch tablet-size display or folded closed for a 6.6-inch format.
It’s also powerful, with a high-end Kirin 990 chipset, 8GB of RAM, 512GB of storage, a quad-lens camera (led by a 40MP main sensor), a 4,500mAh battery, and a stylish, notch-free design.
Of course, all of this comes at a high price, with the Huawei Mate Xs retailing for £2,299 / AU$3,999 (around $2,750), though it can often now be found for a little less. Being a Huawei device there’s unsurprisingly also no US availability, and no access to Google apps on the horizon (unless both companies come to a surprise agreement), but you can still find it online unlocked.
Read our full Huawei Mate Xs review
The Samsung Galaxy Fold (now renamed the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold) dazzled us during the Samsung Galaxy S10 launch in February 2019, but the world had to wait until April before the South Korean manufacturer allowed the first members of the media (including TechRadar) to get hands-on with the device.
Initial impressions were good, and despite a high price tag, the slick interface and huge 7.3-inch unfolded screen was impressive – we had the first mainstream foldable in our hands, and it was stunning. But just as the Galaxy Fold's April 2019 US release date neared, a number of review units malfunctioned which led Samsung to delay the Galaxy Fold. Some refinements later, the device finally launched to the public later in the year, and it's still a great device over a year later.
The phone’s specs include both a 4.6-inch HD+ Super AMOLED screen on the front and a foldable 7.3-inch QHD Dynamic AMOLED display on the inside, essentially letting you use the device as both a phone and a tablet. That external screen seems limited compared to the edge-to-edge display on the outside of the Z Fold 2, but the original Fold's screen is still useful for regular tasks.
The device supports three-app multi-tasking and allows you to seamlessly move from one screen to the other, with whatever content you were viewing switching between them as you open or close the larger display.
It has a 4,380mAh battery, 12GB of RAM, 512GB of storage, and a high-end Snapdragon 855 chipset. Cameras? The Galaxy Fold has six: a 16MP lens and a pair of 12MP lenses on the back, a 10MP camera on the front, and a dual-lens 10MP and 8MP pairing on the inside, visible when using the large foldable screen.
The device wasn't cheap when it launched, with a starting price of $1,980 / £1,800 (around AU$2,760), but that has come down significantly since then.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy Fold review
Best clamshell foldable
Clamshell foldables are less common than foldables like the Galaxy Z Fold 2: instead of unfolding to reveal a tablet-sized screen, they unfold to show... an inner display the same size as a regular phone's screen.
Their value is in how small they can get folded up, which is neat for folks who want a handset that fits in smaller pockets. Take note of the 'Dimensions' below (unfolded first, folded up second), and note that a folded up clamshell is often little larger than a tin of mints.
These devices still have screens on the outside, though they have very basic functionality compared to the external displays on the foldables listed above. And while they aren't the most advanced handsets on the market, they'll still turn heads on the street – though you'll have to pay a pretty penny for the privilege.
The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip is our top-ranked clamshell foldable in a very small market: its advantages over the Motorola Razr 2020 (our number two pick) are few but important.
First, the Galaxy Z Flip has the edge on specs, with a leading (for its year) Snapdragon 855 Plus chipset and 8GB of RAM. The dual rear cameras (12MP f/1.8 main and 12MP f/2.2 ultrawide) stand above the Razr's single camera, and Samsung's photo software is still better. Its 3,300mAh battery is small compared to other phones, but still much better than the Motorola Razr 2020's.
The clamshell foldable lives up to its description, clamping closed with a glossy glass back that makes it look like a makeup compact. The 6.7-inch display is plastic but still a respectable Full HD+ (2636 x 1080), with a thick plastic bumper around the edges that protects it – go ahead, snap it shut with some gusto.
Best of all, you can unfold the phone and leave it at any angle, which is admittedly handy when making video calls, say, and leaving it propped open. The software is good at separating the interface into top and bottom halves, except when it's unfolded flat – and no, it doesn't go beyond that, so don't try.
The Galaxy Z Flip's glaring weakness is its front display, which is a whopping 1.1 inches long (300 x 112 pixels); for comparison's sake, the original Motorola Razr phones launching in 2004 had a display with 220 x 176 pixels. The Z Flip's screen is AMOLED, and shows a line or two of text for basic info, or even a (very limited) preview of any selfies you're about to take.
All in all, it's an impressive foldable in execution if not in utility, though you'll pay for the novelty: it doesn't do anything better than comparable flagships (except fit in small pockets) yet costs $1,380 / £1,300 / AU$1,800 (4G LTE). It also comes in an even pricier version with a Snapdragon 865 Plus chipset that connects to 5G, but that costs $1,449, £1399 / AU$2,599.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy Z Flip review
Motorola rebooted its Razr brand of flip phones with the Motorola Razr, a folding ‘clamshell’ device that combined novel tech with a nostalgic form factor that hearkened to the Motorola Razr V3, a phone that took the world by storm when it launched in 2004. The Razr released in 2019 lived up to that ambition... sort of, with an exorbitant price and too many rough edges.
The refined Motorola Razr 2020 (called the Motorola Razr 5G) has ironed out a lot of its predecessor's problems, but is still a pricey device that offers novelty rather than must-have design advances.
That said, it's a handsome device: folded up, the phone is the size of a mint tin, with a relatively big 2.7-inch display on the outside and software improvements that allow you to do basic app browsing, texting, and preview selfies effectively.
If you want, you can take care of some business without flipping open the phone – including taking selfies with the same 48MP main lens that you use with the phone open. This is great for video chats, though you can also use the internal 20MP camera.
But flipping open the phone is half the fun, with a satisfying 'snap' into place, fully unfolded. No, it won't let you keep the phone perched partway – it's either fully closed or flipped all the way open – but you'll finally get to snap a call closed with the same dramatic emphasis you did in the halcyon days of flip phones.
Unfortunately, that internal plastic (P-OLED) screen is nothing to write home about, with a narrow 2142 x 876 pixel resolution that's thinner than the Full HD displays on today's budget phones.
The Snapdragon 765G chipset is fine but not top-of-the-line, and the 256GB of storage isn't expandable. Its 2,800mAh battery has been expanded on its predecessor, but it's still small: Razr insists that using the external mini screen is less of a drain than the main screen, meaning that typical users get a day of battery life, but that's still not generous.
All of that means the Razr 2020 is not a substantially superior device to your typical smartphone, and you'll pay for its novelty, with a $1,399 / £1,399 (around AU$1,900) price tag. If you want to relive Razr's heyday or just want a phone that slips into small pockets or purses, though, the Razr 2020 is your handset of choice.
Read our full Motorola Razr 2020 review
- Stay on top of tech news with the TechRadar newsletter