The US falls behind in phone design, and folding parts are the proof. This year's Mobile World Congress was full of foldables, from Huawei's sleek Mate X to Xiaomi's triple folding model, TCL's angular DragonHinge design, Oppo's prototype, the rickety Royale FlexPai, and LG's v50 second screen.
However, all of these devices have one thing in common: like the last waves of innovative phone designs released overseas, they are in no way available in America. If you look at the foldable landscape, there is basically only one device that is sold in the US by carriers, without import fees or the compatibility with mobile phones incurred: Samsung Galaxy Fold.
The problem is not only that US customers are missing cool and interesting phones, even if it's frustrating. It's also the case that flagship companies such as Oppo and Huawei are increasingly among the best in the world, offering new ideas and specifications that are equal to the best cell phones in the US, but at much lower prices. This means less competition in a stagnant domestic market, which consists essentially only of Apple and Samsung phones.
Huawei, Xiaomi and Oppo are the world's largest smartphone makers of Marketshare, # 2, # 4 and # 5, but there is a virtual duopoly in the US According to Counterpoint Research, Apple controlled the fourth quarter of 2018 54 percent of the market, while Samsung had a market share of 22 percent – together they make up more than three quarters of all cell phones sold in the US. The next best competitor is LG (12 percent) and has been fighting for years with the sale of smartphones. Even seemingly weak juggernauts like Google, whose pixel line is critically praised and profited from the full firepower of corporate marketing, and Sony, a brand that US consumers are incredibly familiar with, can barely bring a bump.
Even if Chinese brands could sell in the US, they face a fierce battle that penetrates the market. However, it is largely a point of controversy, as it is not even a contest at the moment. In addition, the boredom of US cell phones also harms the innovation. Currently, the major devices in the US are boring, with notches and iPhone X-ish designs. For most US customers, this is the pinnacle of innovation. When Samsung comes out with its scoring-avoiding punch S10, it feels like a victory. However, due to the faster and more experimental speed of the technology, Chinese phones have already outperformed these notched designs.
Outside the US, the telephone world is filled with really weird and innovative ideas. Boredom of boring, black and white cell phones? Check out these neon gradients shimmering in the sun:
Do you hate your score? How about a pop-up camera that pops up when you need it and leaves your screen marvelously unmarked if you do not? for selfies or sliding screens or completely portless phones. Sure, not all of them are the most practical, but they're pushing the envelope in a way that Apple and Samsung's hardware just are not.
Plus, with the completely new form factors of the folding elements on the move, the fact that only one or two of these devices will do so. Being available in the US will severely limit their acceptance. At the moment, the foldable room is an all-rounder with many ideas about which types of folding phones work and which do not. But customers in the US will only see a fraction of what's out there. At the moment, Samsung's Galaxy Fold is the only game in town for US customers, and even if you prefer the sleek style and reverse fold that Huawei uses on the Mate X, you're probably out of luck.
Well, that's it Some of the problems can be circumvented: When you're ready to pay a premium, you can import the latest and greatest phones from outside the US. Theoretically, unified telecommunications standards mean that unlocked mobile phones are not limited to network operators: they can easily buy any phone on the Internet and are ready to go.
The reality, however, is more complicated. Different network operators and phones support different LTE bands and different mobile technologies (Hello, GSM vs. CDMA). Without the partnership and blessing of an operator, it's a question of whether your new device will actually work if it's state-specific.
These compatibility issues will only get worse in the future when 5G begins to roll. It's bad enough finding an unlocked phone that supports your US operator's best LTE bands. The chaos of various chunks of the 5G spectrum, which vary from carrier to carrier with different modem and antenna requirements, will only exacerbate the situation. With sub-6s, bulky mmWave antennas, different frequency bands and step-by-step rollouts in cities that may lead to 5G coverage gaps, it seems almost impossible for you to just buy an unlocked 5G phone that will work USA, at least not for years out.
It's not as if Chinese companies have not tried to open up the US market. Xiaomi fueled a few years ago, but only sold smart home products and accessories and even electric scooters that underpinned scooter startups like Bird – but no phones. Huawei is probably the closest of them all. At CES 2018, Huawei was on the verge of announcing a purchase agreement with AT & T to sell the Mate 10 Pro in the US. However, AT & T retired at the eleventh hour because of government security concerns. Verizon was also reportedly scared off.
Both efforts ended in failure, and as the political wind blew, it increasingly looked as if the US telephone market would not soon have to worry about the competition of companies like Huawei or Xiaomi. But it's no fun to get stuck on the sidelines and watch the cool hardware from afar.