It’s been a long while since we’ve seen a worthwhile attention grabbing feature that could evolve or innovate smartphones from what we know of it today. So far we’ve seen phones featuring the same ol’ curved screens, notches, multiple camera setups, high megapixel counts, bizarre aspect ratios, and even hidden pop-up or sliding cameras. But one particular innovation stood out and caught the world’s attention: foldable phones.
Dreams To Reality
We now live in an age of smartphones where we rely entirely on its touchscreen, and the only way to make such a phone compact, in theory, is by seamlessly folding the screen together. A decade ago, this seemed like a fantasy as LCD screens weren’t able to fold and not cause damage to itself. The closest device to realise this was a Japanese exclusive NEC phone known as the Medias W, where it featured two screens connected by a hinge which allowed it to function with a singular screen, or folded out to reveal a larger (but not seamless) display.
Not For The Everyman
Thanks to advancement in smartphone tech, LCD touchscreens are able to display with curved edges, and finally given the ability to fold. Big players in the market have revealed their foldable phone concepts with an inward fold by Samsung, outward fold by Huawei, clamshell-styled fold by Motorola and Lenovo, and dual rear folds by Xiaomi. The era of foldable smartphones have finally arrived, but it’s still years away from perfection. Let alone being affordable to the common consumer.
Being the first generation of its kind, current foldable smartphones are ridiculously expensive thanks to the new technologies it’s packing. In retail, they’re priced at MYR 8K to MYR 12K a pop, and unless you’re an influencer or a 1-percenter, it’s not something an average person would consider purchasing despite its wow factor. Even for those who could afford it, they might not be in for a good ride, as seen in the recent Samsung Galaxy Fold debacle.
Specific media outlets and influencers were baffled and horrified to have found their Galaxy Fold units to cease function after a few days due to hardware faults, while another instance in breakage involved individuals accidentally peeling off the screen’s protective layer. The former scenario demonstrated that as advanced as this new technology may seem, it’s far from being flawless as a manufacturer would’ve hoped. The latter scenario is a clear indication of how ridiculously fragile it is even to a seemingly minute user error.
Granted, these were review units that were handed out rather than actual purchases, but this goes to show that being an early adopter of such innovations may not be a great idea after all - especially with the amount of money you’re expected to shell out for it. Some say that this gamble was similar to when the Nintendo Switch was open for orders, but the difference is that Nintendo’s innovation was based on existing technologies that were further improved and incorporated to their vision. To their credit, the Switch took off gloriously.
Not The First Time, Nor The Last
This is not the first time a foldable phone disappointed the masses, and I bet everyone’s forgotten about the Royole Flexpai - the true first ever foldable phone released in January 2019. According to those who’ve tried it, the Flexpai was unimpressive in terms of hardware despite its MYR 5K+ price tag, and its ugly folded form ironically looks like a fat wallet. With the Flexpai a flop, and the Galaxy Fold already facing issues prior to its release, it’s just hard to actually put in any faith (or money) in the others that are following suit.
Give It Time To Grow
Marketing will always make any product look and perform better than it actually could, and foldable phones are not an exception. The hype built from marketing could warrant a person to click the pre-order button, but clearly hides any form of fault that are to be expected from the device. As seen with the current foldable phones, it’s still a huge risk for a consumer to invest a large sum of money to an experiment that clearly should take a couple of more years for it to be reliable.
With that, there’s a likely chance the cost of the technology to go even lower and more affordable as it slowly becomes a regular body in the smartphone market. Until then, we’re nothing more than lab rats paying to be experimented on. Perhaps it’s best we stick to what we’re already used to, and just let new innovations mature itself first before we actually spend on it.