There’s two strong themes going on at Mobile World Congress this year – foldable phones, and 5G. It’s hard to capture and present 5G, but we’re starting to see foldable phones – and other things – appear more and more on the show floor.

We’re at the outer edge of foldable phones. Nothing’s been decided yet in terms of winning form factor, features or functionality. Screens might be inside, they might be outside. They might be on a top hat.

Besides Samsung’s Galaxy Fold and Huawei’s Mate X, there’s a couple of other notable players flexing their muscles.

TCL concept models

We heard from TCL about their DragonHinge technology, along with the promise of concept devices on the showroom floor – and today we spent a while looking at them.

Despite being locked away in a display cabinet, TCL was showing off a few concepts – screen inside, screen outside, and a wallet-style device that looks a little like an inside-out Royole FlexPai, but with a portion of the screen still visible when it’s folded up – this can show notifications and other information.

It remains to be seen whether the market takes to this style of foldable, though – many seem to want a device that becomes flat when folded.

TCL’s sister company CSOT is also exhibiting on their stand, showing working flexible displays inside demo pods that I joked come across like the furniture testing machines you see in an IKEA store. No joke, though – they told me they’re good for 200,000 bends.

It’s pretty neat to see working flexible screens, even if they’re not connected to functioning smartphone internals – getting that part working seems like an afterthought.

Royole goes off the wall

We also saw Royole, who technically did beat everyone to the punch with a folding phone late last year with their FlexPai, who had a few wild concepts on display.

A top hat with a flexible screen on it? Check.

(Bonus points for the chest-mounted screen, too)

Why yes, that is a flexible screen on a handbag.

Royole’s actual phone – the FlexPai – is on display here too.

FlexPai wasn’t well-received by those who got to touch it at CES earlier this year – perhaps that’s why it’s locked away inside a protective bubble.

Royole said it’s spent a lot of money on its R&D for flexible displays – now it’s time for them to put their technology into use in a realistic device.

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Daniel Narbett

Ha! I thought the ‘top hat’ line at the start was an obscure joke, but no