Are the Folding Phones the Future of the Smartphone Industry?

Since their inception, the smartphones have, more or less, had the same form factor of a brick with a single touchscreen. There have been changes in screen sizes which have generally gotten bigger but with lesser bezels. The screen front design has had different types of notches, including the notch-less option with the integration of pop-up front cameras. All of these changes can be viewed as minor tweaks but not something that can be deemed revolutionary. This trend may soon change with the advent of folding smartphones which promises to change the game by introducing a unique form factor.

Types of folds – vertical and horizontal

So far, we have seen 2 major types of folding designs. The first one, is the horizontal fold where the touchscreen of the phone is folded like a book. This also means that once the phone is unfolded, the screen becomes more like tablet rather than the standard smartphone screen. The second type is the vertical fold. This is more of a throwback to the flip phones of the past where the touchscreen flips open vertically to become the standard smartphone form factor.

Recent folding phones

There have been a few folding smartphones appearing in the market but the most hype has been generated by the Samsung Galaxy Fold and Moto Razr (2019). The Samsung Galaxy Fold relies on the horizontal fold and has a4.6 inch cover display as well for using the phone without being unfolded. Once unfolded, the display size is 7.3 inch which delivers a better experience during reading and browsing the internet.

On the other hand, the Moto Razr (2019) has a vertically folding display that brings back memories of the incredibly popular Moto Razr flip phone from the mid-2000s. Once folded, it becomes a compact square with a small cover display for notifications. In its unfolded form, it is a 6.2 inch display whichlooks like a standard smartphone. Many believe that Moto Razr’s vertical fold has the greater potential of becoming a mass market product compared to the horizontal fold. This stems from the fact that it offers something which is familiar yet different at the same time.

The challenges

With any new innovation, challenges and problems are normally expected. With the folding smartphones, there are question marks regarding their durability. The Galaxy Fold had to be recalled due to failure of the screens on some units. The failure normally occurred when the users tried to remove the protective film off the screen. The problem was that this film was actually a part of the screen and led to the display becoming unresponsive. The other challenge is the pricing. Both the Galaxy Fold and Moto Razr (2019) are priced well above $1000. With the passage of time, it is expected to come down as the concept becomes less novel but, for now, it remains a barrier to its mass success. 

The folding smartphone definitely has potential. As the concept becomes more refined and easier to adopt for other companies, the coming decade can be dominated by a wave of folding smartphones.

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