Hinges are the reason foldable phones are expensive and in short supply
The Samsung Galaxy Fold and the Huawei Mate X, as the first, and, currently, most important foldable smartphones, will ship in limited supply. This is mostly due to their high price tag which makes them less affordable for the masses, but a recent DigiTimes report cites unnamed industry sources that reveal another reason. Apparently, there’s a shortage of components that a required by smartphone manufacturers to produce foldable phones.
Hinges are mentioned as the main culprit. They come in short supply and they’re expensive, because, opposed to those used by laptop and notebook computers, foldable smartphone hinges “should come in much thinner and finer forms”.
The tolerance for the frequency of folding and unfolding of hinges used by foldable smartphones should come at least 10 times stronger than those used by notebooks.
Because of low tolerances and the ability to withstand more folds and unfolds than a computer, there’s a tough quality control and requirement, which results in hinge manufacturers producing lower volumes, with volume production being achievable only by 2020.
Foldable smartphone hinges are made with MIM (metal injection molding) technology. In order for precise volume production, manufacturers need to increase investments on furnaces “to ramp up their capacity to meet increasing demand”.