Connect with top gaming leaders in Los Angeles at GamesBeat Summit 2023 this May 22-23. Register here.

Samsung, Huawei, and Chinese company Royole all have foldable devices on display at MWC in Barcelona this week, but one clear message has emanated from these companies so far: You can look, but please — do not touch.

Korean tech giant Samsung first unveiled its Galaxy Fold at its own event last week, alongside a bunch of other devices — these included the new S10 range of flagships and a future-gazing 5G device. While most of these are available for the eager public to fondle to their heart’s content at Samsung’s MWC booth, there is one notable exception.

In the wake of the official Galaxy Fold unveiling last week, Samsung didn’t give anyone the chance to get to grips with the device themselves. And with MWC now well underway, it’s clear that the company is being super restrictive on the public’s ability to get too close to the device.

The closest any passersby will get to the Galaxy Fold will be roughly 4 feet behind a cordoned-off glass case, like it’s some sort of million-dollar gem.

Samsung Galaxy Fold

Above: Samsung Galaxy Fold

Image Credit: Paul Sawers / VentureBeat

A mere hop, skip, and a jump across from the Galaxy Fold, Huawei has adopted a similar strategy with the Mate X, the 5G foldable it revealed just yesterday.

Huawei Mate X: Foldable

Above: Huawei Mate X: Foldable

Image Credit: Paul Sawers / VentureBeat

If there was any lingering doubt that foldable manufacturers didn’t want members of the public to get their sticky hands on their hardware, well, Chinese company Royole — which has been working on flexible screens for several years before rushing to debut its FlexPai phone a few months back — put an end to that with this show of protection.

Royole FlexPai

Above: Royole FlexPai

Image Credit: Paul Sawers / VentureBeat

While all this may be partly designed to feed into the hype — “hey, this is way too special for just anyone to pick up” — treating this new form factor like Hannibal Lecter doesn’t really give one a great deal of confidence that they will be ready for their intended launch dates: late April for the Galaxy Fold, and the middle of 2019 for the Mate X.

Royole’s FlexPai is already available to buy as a developer edition, so its reluctance to let the public handle its device is arguably more surprising.

Perhaps the one takeaway from all of this is that these devices are still early stage, and thus they are as imperfect as they are expensive. Only serious techies are likely to buy these foldables in the early days, and as is the case when any new form factor comes to the fray, we’ll likely see many iterations roll out before we arrive at a design that is both commercially attractive and affordable.

Nobody is really under any illusion that Samsung’s $1,980 Galaxy Fold or Huawei’s $2,600 Mate X are designed to be mass-market devices — they’re blatantly not. These glass cases are basically shorthand for: These are still a little half-baked, and we don’t want you to form a negative opinion just yet.

VentureBeat's mission is to be a digital town square for technical decision-makers to gain knowledge about transformative enterprise technology and transact. Discover our Briefings.