Foldable phones from Samsung, Motorola and Huawei offer promise, but most buyers should wait for a folding, 5G iPhone before buying.
Samsung’s original foldable phone, the Galaxy Fold, was dogged by technical problems that delayed its launch. Even after the Fold went on sale, buyers were warned in a YouTube video to “use a light touch” and to keep the phone’s “articulated spine” (the hinge) “free from water & dust.” The water I sort of getting, but seriously, how many pockets, purses, or bags are dust and lint-free? Guess I’ll need to store my $2,000 Fold in a hermetically sealed pouch.
We’re days away from the unveiling of Samsung’s Galaxy Z Flip and the public release of Motorola’s new folding Razr, but let’s be honest, the foldable phone market is a bit of a mess.
In Motorola’s official “Caring for Razr” video, the company warns Razr owners to keep sharp objects away from the screen and close the phone before putting it in a pocket or purse. Motorola also explains that the phone’s “screen is made to bend: bumps and lumps are normal.” Wait for what? The screen on my $1,500 phone is going to have bumps on it?
In all seriousness, if foldable devices are to catch on, and I still believe they will, manufacturers need to make some major improvements and buyers should wait for those changes.
Folding design that isn’t a gimmick
Remember the Amazon Fire Phone with its 3D display? What about the Samsung Galaxy Round, which had a concave curve to its screen? Most people probably don’t, because those phones were based on gimmicks. For the record, I do not believe flexible, foldable, or bendable screens are a gimmick. As I’ve written about previously, foldable phones could finally push office workers away from the PC. But, a phone that folds must do so for a useful purpose…not just because folding is “neat.” If folding makes the phone smaller and more easily fit into a pocket or bag, that’s a useful purpose. The phone’s outer screen, if it has one, should allow you to perform useful tasks. The operating system and apps that run on the phone should take advantage of both the open and closed positions and transition between both seamlessly.
Improved durability and all-day battery life
Today’s foldable phones are just too fragile, mostly due to their bendable screens. No one expects smartphones to be as rugged as Motorola’s old DynaTACs, but foldable phones should be just as durable as regular smartphones. The screens shouldn’t have bumps, lumps, bubbles, creases or any other flaw. The hinge shouldn’t stop working when exposed to normal levels of dust and debris. People should be able to use their phones in the real world, not a laboratory clean room. Lastly, the battery needs to last all day.