Expected to change the market, foldable smartphones have for the moment rather a staggered start. However, the revolution is well prepared and I remain convinced, despite the chaotic beginnings, of the success of this new smartphone form factor.
Yes, the technology is not yet mature
There's no need to deny it. As much as I appreciated the folding smartphone concept, the first models on the market are rather disappointing at the moment. If we make an exception (and it's quite difficult to do so) about the price of Galaxy Fold, Mate X or Royole Flexpai, it's mainly the fragility of these models that raises questions. And that is the main problem with folding smartphones today. Even if Huawei's problem with the US administration was ruled out, no manufacturer (except Royole and its Flexpai) was able to market its foldable smartphone within the agreed time frame, due to technical problems and reliability concerns.
Samsung had to postpone the launch of its device to early September after several American journalists had experienced difficulties with the first review units. The necessary time for the company to refine the model and improve screen safety by extending the protective layer on the screen was needed. It had to avoid its removal by reinforcing the structure of the unit and to avoid dust by reviewing the hinge mechanism... As for Huawei, it's not necessarily better. The Chinese giant has also finally launched its folding smartphone this week, several months after the planned date (in June), but only in China.
Even the new Galaxy Fold model is far from ideal for everyday use, at least in the sense that a conventional smartphone is currently being used. Users have already experienced their first misadventures with the new version. Samsung, aware of this fragility problem, offers a cut-price screen replacement during the first year and provides a list of tips in the box. So there goes proper sealing, forget any contact with keys (even nails are a dangerous weapon on the foldable screen) and whatever you do don't drop it.
Unfortunately, it is not surprising that new misadventures will come with this type of foldable screen. The technology is not mature. A screen manufacturer I spoke with during the IFA also confirmed this to me, telling me that they still preferred to wait before coming to market, otherwise they would face the same concerns as Samsung.
But the format leaves room for new uses
And yet, despite all the problems of folding smartphones, I can only remain seduced by the concept. Like it or not, the innovations introduced on smartphones in recent years are quite limited. Yes, cameras have made progress, especially at night. Yes, the screens have become more bezel-less. Yeah, facial recognition has improved. But a 2017 or 2016 smartphone looks a lot like a 2019 smartphone. There is a reason why the smartphone market in the West has slowed down, as people are keeping their devices for longer.
This new format also certainly interests me because it brings a breath of fresh air to the market, and a little something new and exciting in my line of work. As much as I like the new smartphones launched in 2019, I find it increasingly difficult to listen to their marketing speeches as they try to sell small improvements.
Above all, the foldable format arouses curiosity. Like the first iPhone, many of my friends are asking me for my opinion on this new format. The foldable smartphone introduces a new way to use your smartphone and creates a wow factor for users. It is not difficult to see the advantages of such a device. Keeping a compact format, the foldable smartphone offers a larger screen that offers more comfort for multimedia use, which will grow even more in the coming years with the advent of 5G.
You just have to be patient. The foldable smartphone revolution will happen, but it will take time. A necessary time to improve the technology and adapt the software to the uses of the foldable smartphone. It will also take time for the folding smartphone to find its place in the smartphone market, and once found, it will not necessarily lead to the disappearance of conventional smartphones, contrary to what many may think. The latter are likely to coexist for a long time, just as feature phones still exist (and are selling very well) today.
What do you think of foldable smartphones? Let us know in the comments below.