How important are the mobile phone parts that caused Yu Chengdong and Xiaomi to quarrel?

In the past two days, Yu Chengdong and Xiaomi's face-to-face conversation has become a hot topic.

Before I clicked on the entry, I thought the two of them had launched some major business cooperation after reaching a "global patent cross-licensing agreement."

Unexpectedly, the heated debate was over a hinge.

What is the controversy about?

The cause of this conflict began with Yu Chengdong’s speech at the “2023 Pollen Conference”:

They don’t respect our (Huawei’s) intellectual property rights very much. They just take it and make up a name and say it’s their own. The double-rotation water drop hinge directly becomes the keel hinge, and the keel does not exist.

In response to this, Xiaomi officials responded publicly on Weibo, saying that Yu Chengdong’s remarks were not true. The keel hinge was developed by Xiaomi itself. Both the design idea and the mechanical structure are completely different from the double-rotating water droplet hinge.

Xiaomi officials said that after studying the patents and technical information disclosed by the other party and actually disassembling and verifying it, they can find obvious differences between the two hinges:

Huawei's "double-rotating water drop hinge" has a structure of "2-level rod set + 3 components + 4 low pairs". Xiaomi's "keel hinge" adopts a "3-level rod set + 5 components + 7 low pairs" design.

▲Xiaomi’s official form.

To understand the debate between Huawei and Xiaomi, we must first understand what "keel hinge" and "double-rotating water drop hinge" are.

"Keel hinge" is the latest hinge technology adopted by Xiaomi on its new generation folding flagship phone MIX Fold3.

The first highlight is the hard material, which uses super steel and can withstand a strength of 1,800 MPa. Lei Jun said that "a material the size of a fingernail can withstand a weight of 54 tons, which is equivalent to an adult whale."

The second highlight is the flexible structure. The professional terminology of "3-level rod set + 5 components + 7 low pairs" may sound too esoteric at first glance. To put it simply, the more connecting rods, components and low pairs there are, the better the fit between the hinge and the flexible screen. close. When the phone falls, it can also "deform" along with the screen, absorbing the impact and reducing the risk of screen damage.

Huawei on the other side is the pioneer of the "double-rotating water droplet structure" of folding screens. Zhang Chaoyang once explained the meaning of this structure in detail in an "online physics class".

To put it simply, the water droplet configuration can ensure that the screens are completely parallel to each other after folding, and can also minimize the pressure difference and maximize the radius of curvature at the bends, and will not leave deep marks on the screen after folding. Creases.

At the same time, the double-rotating gear module can maintain the stable water droplet structure of the flexible screen, and the opening and closing process becomes very smooth.

The double-spin + water drop structure can reduce the thickness of the rotating shaft, ensure the stability of the rotating shaft, and realize the synchronous opening and closing and hovering functions of the rotating shaft.

Huawei began developing the "double-rotating water droplet structure" as early as 2016, which was first used on the Mate X2. At the press conference at that time, Yu Chengdong said that Huawei’s water drop hinge is an exclusive patent. If other companies want to achieve seamless folding screens, they must use Huawei’s patented technology.

Different paths lead to the same destination, but there are many sects

Before water drop hinges became a common solution, there were three options for folding screen hinge technology:

  • U shape
  • Eagle wing
  • water drop type

The U-shaped hinge is the earlier of the three and was pioneered by Samsung. The U-shaped hinge effectively solves the problem of the phone being thick and heavy, and also allows the folded screen to be as close to the central axis as possible.

Although this solution can effectively control the weight and thickness of the mobile phone, there is still a large gap between the screens. Coupled with the immaturity of the packaging process, dust entry has become a new problem.

In the picture above, compared with Samsung, the Mate X uses an "eagle wing-shaped hinge" to fold outward. This method not only allows the two screens to fit perfectly and reduces the thickness of the phone, but also eliminates one screen and reduces weight.

However, the exposed flexible screen after folding has become a shell to protect the mobile phone. There is inevitably a risk of scratches, so it has not become a mainstream folding solution.

The "butterfly wing hinge" of this year's Honor V Purse is a continuation of the eagle wing structure. Of course, it is also the only large-screen phone among the 15 folding phones this year that folds outward.

The remaining 14 new machines have the same hinge scheme, but each company has derived a variety of styles:

To sum up, these sects have their own advantages in these three points: service life, screen crease, and body weight.

When it comes to durability, OPPO has to be one. The hinge materials of Find N3 are "zirconium alloy liquid metal" and "aerospace-grade alloy steel", terms that sound far away from us, but actually greatly extend the hinge life.

Experimental data shows that after 1 million folds, Find N3's screen performance, hinge, and system functions still maintain normal usability levels.

According to an average opening and closing frequency of 10 times/hour, a mobile phone used for 16 hours a day is equivalent to more than 17 years of normal use of OPPO's hinge structure under such a frequency of opening and closing.

At that time, the reputation of Motorola Razr was seriously polarized. The problem was its hinge: this was indeed a very good-looking retro smart folding machine, but within a few months of using it, the abnormal sound of the hinge made many first users From now on weeding.

Now, OPPO has solved this problem from the root. Making consumables with a "family heirloom" mentality will always receive positive feedback.

The vivo X Fold2 released earlier this year has excellent performance in screen creases. It uses a high-light fiber hinge bracket and has enough storage space.

The secret to controlling creases lies in the hinge diameter. The diameter of the waterdrop hinge of vivo X Fold2 has increased from 4.6mm to 5.0mm, and the flatness has been improved by 40%. After experiencing it, its crease control is indeed in the first echelon among this year's new phones.

If we disassemble the hinges of all this year's folding screen flagships and compare them together, Honor may be the most special one, because its structure alone has no springs.

Honor named the hinge "Luban" because it brought the "mortise and tenon structure" to the hinge.

The original 92 parts were reduced to 4, and the traditional gears and springs were replaced by sliding components. The opening and closing of the hinge and multi-angle hovering were realized through multiple convex grooves and grooves in the components.

With fewer parts, it is naturally lighter. Therefore, “thinness and lightness” are important selling points for the three folding screens Honor has updated this year. Especially the Honor Magic Vs2 controls the thickness of the unfolded and folded states to 5.1mm and 10.7mm, which feels amazing in the hand.

On the other hand, the reduced hinge volume also leaves more space for the battery. This is a key factor for Honor to make the phone thinner while increasing battery life.

Start with hinges, end with experience

The 15 folding machines released this year have different materials and processes, but they all have the same purpose: to improve the texture of the hinge.

The texture of the folding screen hinge is not only related to the weight of the phone, the lifespan of the structure, and the creases of the screen. The damping and smoothness when opening and closing are also differences that users can intuitively feel after going to the store to experience it. It has become the first choice. Important reference when purchasing.

It directly affects the weight of the mobile phone, the life of the structure, the creases of the screen and the damping feeling when opening and closing, and these are the basic thresholds for consumers to purchase folding screen mobile phones.

From iResearch's insights into the folding screen mobile phone market in 2023, it can be seen that the factor that users pay most attention to when purchasing a phone is "thin and light grip", and weight and thickness are often based on hinge technology.

Therefore, manufacturers attach so much importance to the promotion of hinges. Xiaomi even put the "keel hinge" at the top of the MIX Fold3 promotional page.

But when we buy a folding screen and take it home, how we feel about daily use depends on the large-screen experience. At present, everyone has two things in common in this regard:
The screen quality is excellent, and there is not much difference between different brands.

Software adaptation is unsatisfactory and lacks killer applications and scenarios

Only OPPO Find N3’s “ultra-field panoramic virtual screen” allows us to see the true interactive development direction of folding screen mobile phones – accommodating more page information and innovative multi-task collaboration solutions.

Don Norman, a pioneer in the field of human-computer interaction, once said:

A good design is one that makes the user experience seamless, intuitive and pleasant.

For most folding screen mobile phones, hardware such as hinges and screens are mature enough, but software interaction is not intuitive, easy to use, and creative enough to make full use of the unique form of folding screens, resulting in a sense of fragmentation in the experience.

I hope that in 2024, major manufacturers can focus this year's hard work on roll hinge technology on roll software, roll systems, and roll interactions, and explore more possibilities in a larger space.
Fortunately, we are already seeing progress.

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