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What is the future of folding phones?

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  • 5 min read

Folding Smartphones are new arrivals in the tech world. Last two years saw the idea of foldable smartphone turn into a prototype and earlier this year we started seeing companies launch their folding smartphones, including bigwigs like Samsung and Huawei. Several companies have been using flexible OLED displays in their TV and smartphones, but not all of them have been successful in innovating a foldable screen.

The first folding smartphone, FlexPai, was launched by a pretty unknown company called Royole Corporation in 2018, who though won the race to be first, arguably released an incomplete folding device that was priced at $1300. Unsurprisingly, Flexpai was later discontinued and replaced with Royole’s 2nd generation foldable smartphone.

Huawei also launched its foldable phone, Huawei Mate X in February 2019 at $2,600 and Samsung came up with its first foldable phone in April 2019 — the Galaxy Fold — at a starting price of $1,980. It was eventually temporarily discontinued as the reviewers complained about the protective layer display which peeled off as well as bulges appearing near the hinges.

Other major smartphone players like LG and Apple have also invested in folding smartphones.

Also read: OnePlus 7 Pro vs Samsung Galaxy S10

What issues do current folding smartphones have?

As this is only the first generation of folding smartphones, it is bound to have issues. The primary issue faced by the reviewers with Samsung Galaxy Fold was regarding the display, which in most cases broke after a day of usage.

Photo by Wang Haiyin

Folding smartphones are very delicate. The screens have to be thin to fold the device, which in itself is a challenge for the manufacturing companies. Samsung added a protective layer of plastic on top of the screen, which was misunderstood by many as a screen protector, and when they peeled it off, it completely damaged the display. Many people also complained that the display kept on flickering to which Samsung responded swiftly and recalled the review units to take a closer look at the issue.

In July, the company announced that issues with the protective layer and hinge had been fixed and the phone is scheduled to release in September, with no definite date.

Other than this, folding smartphones have a crease in the middle of the big screen near the hinges — the part where the device folds. This crease is super annoying when looking at the screen from an angle, and moreover, it can be easily felt when we hover our fingers over the screen. This issue could prevent the use of a stylus on foldable phones.

In addition to this, many of these devices do not fold completely! Royole FlexPai Gen 1 was a big failure as it did not fold, it bent. You can refer to this image and see that the device is not at all ‘folded’.

Also, Samsung Galaxy Fold leaves a small gap in between when it is folded. We would have to appreciate Huawei in this regard as it successfully deployed an actual folding screen without a gap in its device.

Huawei Mate X

Like any other device, there are a few issues which can be easily solved by simple software updates. But one of the major problems that should be addressed is that these devices are very fragile. Also, they do not have any IP rating and hence shall be handled carefully.

Also read: Samsung Galaxy Note 10 and Note 10+ announced: 5 key differences

What is the future of folding phones?

Although these are the first generation folding smartphones, the issues faced by the manufacturers isn’t negligible, and every one people did expect some issues to pop-up. Many tech giants like Samsung and its competition, including LG and Huawei, have spent several years and millions of dollars in R&D on folding smartphones. While folding smartphones sure are a wonder in its stead, the need for one isn’t justified yet — especially given that these devices are 1st-gen and come with a set of flaws, which probably will get better over time.

Smartphones, in general, have become compelling computing devices that fit into the palm. Swapping that for a folding phone, which is similar or even more powerful is only viable for those who need both a smartphone and tablet and have a chunk of cash to spare. In short, foldable phones in their current state aren’t pocket-friendly — both in the monetary sense as well as physical. Again, these things might get better with the later generation of folding smartphones.

Samsung released its first-ever infinity display in Galaxy S8 in the year 2017, and it did not prove to be much appealing to the audience. Eventually, Samsung added more features to it like zero side-bezels. Slowly but steadily, it appealed to the audience, and the world moved towards bezel-less phones. We can expect something similar to happen with foldable smartphones, but as of now buying the first generation of technology for $2,000 is not recommended, especially if you are a regular smartphone user with limited cash flow.

Where do you see the folding smartphones in future? Would you like to test one out? Let us know your views in the comments section.

Also read: Are smartphones without buttons a possible future?

Himanshu Nimje

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