Foldable Phones Are Here - But Why?

Category: Gadgets

The smartphone market has shown signs of saturation for well over a year. It seems that almost everyone who wants a smartphone has one, and buyers are holding onto their phones longer instead of upgrading. The industry needs a ground-breaking innovation, a new paradigm that will get consumers excited enough to open their wallets again. Some think that breakthrough will be foldable phones. Read on for the scoop...

Would You Buy a Foldable Phone?

At least three foldables have been demoed already, and more are on the way. Let's take a look at some of the early entrants into the foldable arena. Will you be an early adopter?

The Samsung Galaxy Fold phone's "Infinity Flex Display" folds like a book along its vertical axis. When open, it presents a 7.3 inch display area. When closed, one of the outer “covers” sports a 4.6 inch display. Three-app multitasking allows you to have up to three apps open and visible at once. As you would expect, the Fold is unusually thick when closed, although 11 mm is not exactly a pocket-buster. If you love to take pictures, you'll be happy that the Fold has FIVE cameras: three rear-facing camera lenses (12-megapixel, 12-megapixel telephoto, and 16-megapixel), and two 10-megapixel front-facing cameras. Samsung says the device will be available on April 26th.

The Huawei Mate X is a full 8-inch screen when unfolded. It folds “backwards” so that you have two screens on the outside of the phone when it is folded – a front-facing 5.6 inch screen and a 6.38 inch display on the back. The latter display acts as an electronic mirror, letting the subjects of photos see how they look just before the shutter is snapped.

The FlexPai phone by Chinese startup Royole promises that you can say goodbye to broken screens. The Cicada Wing, Fully Flexible Display looks more like a wallet as it opens and folds along a thick seam. When folded, its 7.8 inch tablet mode display becomes what Royole calls three screens: primary, secondary, and edge. The edge screen displays notifications of incoming calls, emails, and text messages. I can’t imagine squinting at the edge of my phone for any reason.

Samsung Galaxy Fold

Apparently, the unique selling proposition of foldable phones is that you can stop carrying both a tablet and a phone. I can’t think of too many people who do that now, and it seems unlikely any who do will ditch tablets and phones for foldables in the next several years. The prices of foldable phones will see to that.

The Samsung Galaxy Fold will debut in April with a base price of $1,980. The Huawei Mate X will be $2,600. By comparison, the FlexPai almost seems like a bargain at $1,400.

Well-heeled geeks are notoriously picky, and today’s foldable phones have quite a few shortcomings. A faint but noticeable crease in the Galaxy Fold’s screen was apparent during its launch event on February 20, 2019. Software that fully adapts to folding screens doesn’t exist yet. Even the aspect ratios of foldables are non-standard, which degrades video playback. Battery life is questionable, too.

In my view, what we have in foldable phones is a plaything for geeks with too much money. If you have cash to burn, you might have a use for an expensive foldable phone if you watch more than ten hours a week of streaming video on a portable device. But what do I know? I scoffed at the $1000 price tag on the new iPhones, and hordes of people are throwing their credit cards at Apple.

It’s going to be amusing to watch industry execs try to sell foldable phones. Justin Denison, Samsung SVP of Product Marketing, gives it a shot in this video from the Galaxy Fold’s launch event.

Your thoughts on foldable phones are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Foldable Phones Are Here - But Why?"

(See all 22 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

26 Feb 2019

Yes, I would buy one. I have an iPhone 5S. I'm not attached to IOS/Android, etc. I bought it because it was a smart phone that was on a special offer and it fits in my pocket.

Fitting in my pocket is my prime consideration for a phone. A phone I cannot carry is no good to me.

However, it seems as if no one wants to make a decent sized smart phone anymore. If I am unable to replace my 5S/SE with one of a similar size I would, indeed, get a foldable phone IF it fits in my pocket.

My guess is they're probably making those things right now in the huge, overblown currently popular size, just double thickness. BUT if they made a 5S-sized foldable phone I'd be all over it.

I do not carry a pocketbook so not fitting in my pocket is a non-starter for me. A phone I cannot carry or keep forgetting to bring with me is a non phone because I cannot use what's not with me.

Posted by:

26 Feb 2019

Kid phone. What else can you say?

Posted by:

bert lowi
26 Feb 2019

I already have a foldable phone. It's called the Motorola RAZR. Except in those days we called them clamshells. With a little practice you could learn to open it for business with a smart snap of the wrist. It's collecting dust along with my blackberry.

Posted by:

26 Feb 2019

Absolutely not. I've got an iPad and I will never pay $2000 for a phone. Just never. I'd go back to flip phones first.

Posted by:

26 Feb 2019

How long will the screen last? Those plastic living hinges don't seem to last that long.

Posted by:

26 Feb 2019

@Ducklady - Apple is having a clearance sale on thenew iPhone SE right now. A 32GB version is $249. Check the Apple web site.

I currently have an LG Fiesta LTE (Tracfone) that just barely fits into my pants pocket. Anything bigger is a no-go for me. I'd actually prefer something a bit shorter than what I have. The reason I bought it? It was one of the few smartphones sold by Tracfone at the time, and it has a 4500 mAh battery.

Posted by:

26 Feb 2019

If you are carrying a tablet AND a phone, this could be useful.
I used to do that and loved the 7" tablet size because I could carry it in a pants pocket and use it to handle email.
Now that I am more desk based, the tablet went to my wife so that she can carry it to several places where she works.

This is smaller and eliminates the need for a second device. I like the idea that the Samsung has the small screen for phone use and the big one when you need it.

Posted by:

Sara P Cleveland
26 Feb 2019

I'm not very interested in expensive foldable phones. I had a Samsung Galaxy S5 which was more than adequate for several years. I had upgraded from a much earlier Galaxy for only the $40 activation fee.Last year Best Buy had a huge sale on Galaxy S9 & I bought one for less than half the list price. I can't say that I love it, but the camera is so good for this point-and-shoot person that I rarely use the standalone digital camera that I bought a few years ago. The S9 has more features than I will probably ever use but that's mostly because I'm living evidence of the family joke: Mom is too "dumnb" for her "smart" phone.

Posted by:

26 Feb 2019

Gimmicky, likely to break, most probably at great cost. $2000 for a phone? You have got to be joking, but all those people with more money than sense might buy them.
I doubt if you'll see them after 3 years from now as some other expensive "must have" gimmick will come along.
Until 5G comes along, I won't be spending money on another phone.

Posted by:

Jeff Ferguson
26 Feb 2019

Maybe for cars w/o built-in Navigation systems where you do need Broadband for accurate location. Otherwise, it is just a techie envy gimmick now.

Posted by:

26 Feb 2019

My Note 5 still is better than most new phones. I'm only waiting for 5G to be established before upgrading.

Posted by:

26 Feb 2019

Hurray! I hate tiny phone screens.

Posted by:

26 Feb 2019

I have a Samsung Note 4 which is more than adequate for my needs. I have a $1000 car - I am not going to pay more than that for a phone.

Posted by:

Gary SE Wisconsin
26 Feb 2019

Sounds like an overpriced, poor performing answer to a question nobody asked! I have a $9.95 flip Tracfone and a $39.95 Trac Samsung Galaxy SIII which do all I could ask for about $7/month. I also don't get how people can see well enough to do things on any phone screen..... lol

Posted by:

26 Feb 2019

Nope, will not buy. I love my samsung galaxy 5. Just the right size (fits in all pockets) is waterproof and has a replaceable battery! I have a computer and laptop for all the other stuff!

Posted by:

27 Feb 2019

The world is getting crazier every day. $2,000 for a phone? I have a perfect sized SE iPhone and a mini iPad which both go with me easily. At home I have three laptops, 11", 13", and 15.6" which are used for any lengthy emails.

Posted by:

27 Feb 2019

Just a way of creating a "need" where one doesn't actually exist. Playing into the gullible mentality of the consumer.

I don't own an iPhone nor will I.

Posted by:

27 Feb 2019

My 20 yr old flip phone, Samsung is good enough for me. Most of my circle use these or earlier flat phones if have gone beyond a flip phone but they still sell these for seniors. Until it dies or cant do the job - it wont be replaced.

Posted by:

28 Feb 2019

I'd get a wristwatch computer if they made it practical. One company has one. I don't think I'd mind a 2.5-3 x 5-7" wrap-able phone. It'd be nice, especially if it always showed the date/time. That way you'd be far less likely to leave it somewhere. I wouldn't pay more than $1000, though. These phones are getting way too expensive.

Posted by:

Sheila Henderson
28 Feb 2019

I still use my faithful Samsuñg Stratosphere 2, with the pull out drawer keyboard. I almost never use that, but I had just let go of my beloved blackberry and thought I needed a Key keyboard. This stratosphere is as heavy as an old flip phone, but takes awesome photos. It cost 1 penny 6 years ago at Best Buy. I am holding on to it as long as I can.

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