Oppo says foldable smartphones are not up to consumer standards and is hence, not launching one at Mobile World Congress 2019. Ahead of the Oppo Innovation Event 2019 held in Barcelona, the Chinese smartphone maker was anticipated to show a foldable smartphone but it instead announced that there will be a 5G smartphone with 10x lossless zoom coming out in the second quarter of this year. The statement that foldable smartphones are not consumer ready yet from Oppo is in stark contrast to what its peers in the industry are up to this year.
The two common buzzwords at MWC 2019, which officially opens to public on February 25, are 5G and foldable smartphones. Samsung unveiled both – Galaxy S10 5G and Galaxy Fold – at its Unpacked event earlier this week. On February 24, Huawei is expected to become only the third smartphone maker to introduce a foldable smartphone. Neither Samsung nor Huawei are the first to launch foldable phones. ZTE was the first when it introduced the Axon M in late 2017. The difference being that the newer foldable designs come with a more practical design.
Despite the progress, Chuck Wang, Product Manager at Oppo told the media that it is not up to standard. He says based on consumer demand, user experience and battery life, Oppo decided that foldable smartphones are not ready to replace standard smartphones and decided to not launch a device with such a form factor this year.
Watch: Oppo 10x lossless zoom first look
The Galaxy Fold announced early this week is priced at $1,980 (around Rs 140,000), and it shows that first generation of foldable smartphones will be double the price of premium flagship smartphones like the iPhone XS. Oppo, the world’s fourth largest smartphone maker by market share, is known for offering premium experience at an affordable price and for the company making a foldable smartphone that is also affordable would remain the challenge. Speaking of pricing, Wang adds that Oppo will focus on making 5G smartphones cheaper and thus affordable for consumers around the world. He believes Oppo has the strength to launch a 5G smartphone that would be cheaper than Samsung’s offering.
The Galaxy S10 5G neither has a price nor an official date of its availability. In fact, the device does not even have a ready network to work on and US telecom major Verizon, which has exclusive rights to Galaxy Fold, is expected to have 5G network ready for mobile devices only during the second half of this year. Oppo‘s first 5G smartphone is set to launch during the second quarter of 2019, and Wang told BGR India that the company will first launch a 5G smartphone in one market and expand it to other markets later. While he did not confirm whether India will get Oppo’s 5G smartphone, he confirmed that the company is closely working with Reliance Jio and Airtel to lay foundation for 5G mobile network in the country.
Wang, who spent a year and a half in India, before becoming the global product manager, also said that data is affordable in India and with 5G, the company aims to provide clear and high quality video experience to Indian consumers. Oppo’s first 5G foldable smartphone will be powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 and will use Snapdragon X50 5G modem. With support for 5G, Oppo says consumers will be able to experience cloud gaming and intelligent connectivity on mobile devices.
Oppo says it has been working on 5G since 2015 and formed a 5G standardization team on April 1, 2015. The company was one of world’s first 5G signalling and data connections on August 28, 2018 and on October 27, 2018, it conducted first 5G internet connection test on a smartphone. The company set two more milestones when it established world’s first multiparty WeChat video call via a 5G network on November 30, 2018 and showcased a 5G-ready prototype based on Find X on December 6, 2018. The company is ready to challenge Samsung, Huawei and others with its 5G smartphone, but the industry will be looking at whether it makes them affordable.
Disclaimer: The author attended Oppo’s Innovation Event in Barcelona on the invite of Oppo Mobiles India, which provided flight and accommodation.