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Opinion 6 min read 4 comments

Stop bashing foldable phones, it's much more than a gimmick

After years of incessant attempts, today's smartphones have practically reached their turning point: flexible displays. After witnessing various patent, prototype, noise and leak registrations, folding smartphones are finally among us. However, this kind of device has created a rather diffident approach among users, but the advantages are there.

Remember the ZTE Axon M? This device has two separate screens and can literally close thanks to the central mechanism placed between the two displays.

But the future is certainly not that and we aim higher and higher, for a single display that can bend and close like a real book. A future certainly not too far away: companies like Royole and Samsung are a clear example, having already given proof of being able to develop such technology.

Axon M 8
ZTE Axon M has two separate displays that can be used simultaneously or individually. / © ZTE

The reaction to these innovations among our readers has been skeptical, to say the least, with our polls indicating that few people see the benefits of the foldable smartphones, at least in practical, everyday terms. But 2019 will indubitably be the year of these new devices, and I'm confident that they will make the skeptics eat their words.

Will foldable smartphones make their mark on the market? Certainly. More importantly, do they boast of benefits? Absolutely! Let's see some...

New ways of interacting

In recent years, manufacturers have been improving smartphones by adding more RAM, more cameras and faster and faster processors. But apart from a few small exceptions, such as the fingerprint scanner integrated under the display, nothing has been able to change what your smartphone can do.

A 4K display may look better than a simple HD, but its main function is still the same. On the other hand, the addition of a front camera has certainly given rise to new opportunities that are now a must-have, such as video calls, selfies, etc.. Nobody wants a smartphone without a front camera nowadays, and a folding display has potential to make the same impact.

Foldable screens turn a single display into a double display. It's a bit like having a dual-monitor configuration at your workplace. It certainly improves productivity and brings many benefits during multitasking. The multi-window built into the latest versions of Android is already very useful, especially thanks to the larger and larger screens, so think about the level you could get with a folding display.

AndroidPIT ZTE Axon M Hands on 9828
An extensible display will improve productivity and multitasking. / © AndroidPIT

But that's not all: apps and games would also be developed specifically for this kind of device, perhaps providing additional features. In the case of games, you could think of a whole series of Nintendo DS-style additions.

Most beautiful selfie ever

The camera has become one of the most important components to consider when buying a smartphone, so much so that manufacturers are trying to improve it more and more and are always under pressure.

Mainly, however, they have always had to do the double job of developing software and hardware for both the front and the back, given the presence of completely separate sensors. However, this could soon only be history: thanks to folding smartphones, the rear camera could easily become the front camera and vice versa. Just fold the screen and you're ready to go!

No more broken (or almost broken) displays

Folding displays won't solve the problem of accidental drops due to smartphone owners' distraction, but folding the device will certainly provide an extra degree of protection for the display. Moreover, the material used to create these panels is mostly plastic, a very shock-resistant component.

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Foldable displays will surely be more durable than the current ones. / © AndroidPIT

Manufacturers have made great strides in protecting the screen of their devices, thanks to the help of Gorilla Glass, becoming much more resistant than you might think. However, strength does not mean indestructible. Even a single fall on the right surface at the right angle is enough to completely demolish the glass of a current top-of-the-range smartphone.

More choice for consumers

Let's be honest, a new product category won't hurt the market. For years we have been wondering whether to buy a smartphone with more or less RAM, with a camera or even three, while soon we can choose between smartphones and folding phones (also smart, of course). You could compare it to all that has happened until recently between the old feature phones and the current smartphones.

Foldable smartphones will be a new choice that for consumers could be seen as an upgrade of their device. On the other hand, producers will get a new source of income to make a profit on, certainly with more profit margins in the short/medium term. This last aspect should not be underestimated since smartphones no longer produce the same margins of the past, which makes it necessary to break a paradigm.

Goodbye, tablet, it was nice!

I'm not saying it myself, but the numbers: the purchase of tablet devices is increasingly rare nowadays. The category recorded yet another drop in sales (a further -8.6%), with a result of 16 four-months in a row at a loss. I don't want to be too tragic on the subject, but I sincerely think that tablets are one of the technological categories born already dead (at least when it comes to Android).

I still remember when I bought my first Motorola Xoom, the first in the world to run Android Honeycomb. Even today, I can't explain the reason for that purchase at all, since I didn't know what to do with it even before I tore through the wrapping paper. Maybe I should have used it to tap beer, too!

interview nvidia avec stephane quentin nos ambitions vont au dela de la mobilite motorola xoom tegra 2 image 0
Motorola Xoom was the first tablet to run Android Honeycomb. / © Motorola

The "tablet" is an accessory that is mainly purchased at low cost to enjoy the best multimedia content on the move, not just to achieve greater productivity. Already at the time of their spread, with the smartphone you had everything at your fingertips and over the years things have not changed at all.

Probably, the arrival of the folding devices will mark for the tablets the coup de grace. Think about it: a device that can double the size of its screen up to 7 inches simply by flexing. It's like having a smartphone and a tablet at your fingertips at the same time.

I know what you're thinking now: these devices will have very high repair costs, they'll never fit into your trouser pockets, the technology is still unripe and so on. I fully agree with you, but we try to give an eye also to the positive aspects (maybe the most plausible ones) of this new trend, what do you think?

What do you think about folding smartphones? Let me know in the comments below. It will be a pleasure to read and respond to your opinions.

4 comments

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  • I think the foldable phone will be surprisingly popular. Two very thin elements, that when closed, will provide the small form factor and single screen notifications as phones do today, plus the ability to double the screen when reading, researching or watching media. I will continue to hold off upgrading from my current phone until next year when hopefully these devices will hit the market.


  • The issue I have with Gen1 folding displays, given what we've seen leaked so far is the conceived "bulk". For the past 4-5 years, it's all been about "slim, sexy, stylish". Now, this albatross will have this "thick" folding section, which will cause the stylish types to complain worse than the notch or bezels LOL.
    The other issue I have, is this will just be an excuse to jack up the price even more.
    To FOLD the screen, obviously you can't have GLASS on the display, so there goes that expense, but, you can bet they will use the folding screen as an excuse to really jack up the price.


  • storm 2 weeks ago Link to comment

    Folding the screen isn't saving bulk. The volume remains the same. On a phone it is increased bulk most likely to offer an even larger screen. My tablet fits in cargo pockets and many jacket pockets as is so pocketability isn't the driving factor.

    The article title is a claim far from being in evidence. And the article didn't lend any real support either.


  • I still say after reading this article that if you want a bigger screen to work on and to whatsapp and multitask buy a tablet, if you want a bigger screen for gaming... buy a laptop or desktop pc. Foldable phones' screens won't be nearly as big as a pc/laptop or tablet screen and if it's that big you are just buying a foldable tablet and not a phone. Tablets' price might go down when foldable phones are released, I think, thus it might be cheaper to buy a tablet then anyway. Making it a much better buy than a overpriced foldable phone in my humble unemotional opinion.

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