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China is all in on foldables — and Honor’s CEO thinks the rest of the world is ready, too

China is all in on foldables — and Honor’s CEO thinks the rest of the world is ready, too

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The successor to the Honor Magic V is going global

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George Zhao announcing Honor’s first foldable, the Magic V, in early 2021
George Zhao announcing Honor’s first foldable, the Magic V, in early 2021
Image: Honor

Honor is planning to release its second foldable next year, and unlike the Honor Magic V, the company hopes to actually release the device outside of China. Honor’s CEO, George Zhao, confirmed the plans in an interview with The Verge ahead of this year’s IFA trade show in Berlin and said the company expects to launch its next foldable device in the first quarter of next year. 

“We’ve made the decision that next year, in Q1, we’ll bring our latest foldable smartphone to international markets,” including Europe, Zhao said. The CEO didn’t confirm any specifics or details for the new device but indicated that Honor’s major areas of focus for its foldables are making them thinner, lighter, and more affordable. 

A release in the first quarter of next year would come roughly a year after Honor debuted its first foldable device, the Honor Magic V. The company is one of several Chinese smartphone brands that have recently launched foldables, alongside the likes of Oppo’s Find N, Xiaomi’s Mix Fold, and Huawei’s Mate X devices.

A surprisingly large proportion of these devices have remained exclusive to the Chinese market, however. In the west, only Samsung and Huawei have made serious foldable pushes, and of them, it’s arguably only Samsung’s devices that have been worth considering; Huawei’s continue to be sold without Google’s apps and services as a result of ongoing US sanctions. The result is that Chinese customers simply have a much broader range of foldable devices to choose from.

Honor’s Magic V is exclusively available in China.
Honor’s Magic V is exclusively available in China.
Image: Honor

When I asked Zhao why Honor and other brands are prioritizing China for their foldables, he said that a much bigger proportion of popular apps in the country are optimized for foldable devices. That’s because China has a unique Android app market that’s dominated by domestically produced apps like WeChat, and it even has a special version of TikTok (named Douyin) in the country. The situation makes it easier to collaborate with developers to optimize their apps for new form factors.

“We have a very good relationship with the [China-based] app providers,” explains Zhao, who says that this relationship means developers are willing to work with Honor to optimize their apps for foldables. Unlike in the rest of the world, where users download Android apps from the global Google Play Store, users in China access them via a number of app stores that are specific to the market.

“Next year, in Q1, we’ll bring our latest foldable smartphone to international markets”

But with Google’s recent initiatives to improve the Android experience on big-screen devices, Zhao believes international markets are catching up. For starters, Google recently released Android 12L, a new version of its mobile operating system optimized for tablets and foldables. It’s also working to optimize its own apps for larger screens and says it’s working with third-party developers to improve the experience of using apps like TikTok, Zoom, and Facebook. “Google is making a lot of effort in this direction,” Zhao says.

One place Honor still isn’t planning to sell its foldables is the United States. Although the company made a push into the US market half a decade ago, for now, it’s focusing its limited resources on regions like Europe, where it has an existing presence and more experience.

In the more immediate future, Honor is continuing to build out a family of devices across a number of different product categories. Today saw the global launch of its latest midrange smartphone, the Honor 70 (check out our full review here), alongside a new tablet and laptop. The former is the 12-inch Honor Pad 8 tablet, which launched in China earlier this year, and there’s also the 14-inch MagicBook 14 laptop, which is powered by a 12th Gen Intel Core H-series processor and can optionally be specced with an Nvidia RTX 2050 GPU.

After years of seeing the international market for foldables dominated by Samsung, next year, we might finally see some real competition. Well, so long as the CEOs of China’s other tech brands are similarly impressed with Google’s efforts to improve Android app support for tablets and foldables.

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