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Folding phones will make the US very jealous

The US is lagging behind in the design of the phone, and folds are proof. This year's Mobile Vorld Congress was packed with folds, from Huawei's elegant Mate Ks to Xiaomi's triple-folding model to TCL's angular DragonHinge design to Oppy's prototype to the sleek Roiale FlekPai on the LG's second V50 display .

But all of these devices have one thing in common: like the last few waves of innovative phone designs released abroad, they will not be available in America in any significant way. Looking at the shifting landscape, there is basically just one device that will be sold to the US, from the operator, without having to deal with import fees or mobile phone compatibility: Samsung Galaki Fold.

This is not a new phenomenon. Cool phones from abroad have always had tough moments in America, due to market demand, trade agreements and complex other geopolitical factors. The current distrust of various US intelligence agencies against Chinese telecommunications companies is an obvious example.

But the problem is not only that American customers miss interesting and interesting phones, although this is quite frustrating. Also, leading manufacturers from companies such as Oppo and Huawei are increasingly becoming the best hardware in the world, offering new ideas and specifications at the level of the best phones in the US, but at far more affordable prices. And this means less competition on the domestic stagnation market, which consists mainly of Apple and Samsung phones.

Huawei, Xiaomi and Oppo are smartphone manufacturers number 2, number 4 and number 5 in the world by market share, but in the United States there is a virtual duopoly. According to Counterpoint Research, in the fourth quarter of 2018, Apple controlled 54% of the market, while Samsung had 22% – together, two brands accounted for more than three-quarters of all phones sold in the United States. The next closest competitor is LG, with 12%, and has been struggling with the sale of smartphones for years. Even those who look like Google, with its Pikel line critically praised and useful from the full firepower of the company behind it, and Sony, a brand that American consumers are unlikely to meet, can barely make traces.

Even if they are Chinese brands Could in the US, the prospects are that they will face the rise in the market. But this is a very controversial point, because now it is not competition at all. In addition, the boredom of US phones also damages the innovations. At present, the main devices in the United States are boring, with notches and the design of the iPhone Ks-ish. As for most US customers, it's the highlight of innovation, so much so that when Samsung leaves with a breakthrough S10, the one that avoids, it looks like a win. However, Chinese phones have already far outperformed those designs that were carved for faster and more experimental pace of technology.

Outside the United States, the world of the phone is filled with truly strange and innovative ideas. Bored of boring, black-and-white phones? Check out these neon-hued gradients that blink in the sun:

Honor View 20

Photo: Vlad Savov / The Verge

I hate your scum? What do you say on a popping camera that appears when you need it, and leave the screen magnificently unmarred when you are not?

Photo: Sam Biford / The Verge

Or maybe just try a two-sided screen that turns for selfies, or sliding screens, or full phones without a port. Of course, not everyone is most practical, but they push the envelope forward in the way that Apple and Samsung hardware are simply not.

Additionally, with completely new factors for folding on the road, the fact that only one or two of these devices will be available in the United States for now will seriously limit their adoption. Right now, the folding space is free for everyone, with a wide variety of ideas about what styles of folding phones work and who are not. But American buyers will only see part of what is there. Currently, Samsung Galaki Fold is the only game in the city for American customers, and even if you prefer the slim style and the inverse fold that Huavei uses on Mate Ks, you probably will not be lucky.

Now it's possible to bypass some of the problems – if you are willing to pay the premium, you can import all the latest and best phones outside the US. Theoretically, unified telecommunication standards mean that unlocked mobile phones are not limited to any operator: you can easily buy any phone on the internet and be ready.

But reality is more complicated. Different carriers and phones support different LTE ranges and different cellular technologies (hello, GSM vs. CDMA). Without partnerships and carrier blessings, it's crapshoot if your new device will really work properly when it starts in the country.

Honor View 20

Photo: Vlad Savov / The Verge

These compatibility issues will only aggravate in the future as the 5G is beginning to evolve. It's bad enough to find an unlocked phone that supports the best LTE bands of your operator in the United States. Throwing into the chaos of the various parts of the 5G spectrum, varying from carrier to carrier with different modem and antenna requirements will only aggravate things. With sub-6, mmVave antennas, different frequency bands, and gradual expansion in cities that can mean 5G gaps, it seems almost impossible that you will simply be able to buy an unlocked 5G phone and work in the United States, at least in the coming years.

It's not like Chinese companies did not try to enter the US market. Xiaomi made the pressure a few years back, but ultimately only sold products and accessories for smart homes, and even electric scooters that supported scooter startups like Bird – but not phones. Huawei surely got the closest to everyone. At CES 2018, Huawei was on the verge of publishing a contract with AT & T to sell Mate 10 Pro in the US, but AT & T withdrew in the eleventh hour due to pressure from the government on security issues. Verizon is allegedly scared.

Both of these efforts ended with failure, and as political winds blow the way they are, it is increasingly apparent that the US phone market will not have to worry about the competition of companies such as Huawei or Xiaomi soon. But it does not make it even more pleasant to stumble on the margins watching all the cool hardware from afar.

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