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Foldable Phones Might Boast Technological Prowess But Aren’t Here To Stay
With the smartphone screens going beyond 6-inches, OEMs have reached a point where getting bigger doesn't sound convenient -- at least not with the candy bar form factor. Well, the bottleneck might have pushed companies such as Samsung, Huawei, LG, ZTE, and others into experimenting with the idea of foldable displays. The parade of such launches is unlikely to cease, and by the end of this year, we might see a few people owning such devices.
Though the foldable smartphones might resolve the issue of fitting a big screen into a smaller body, they aren't innovative enough to amplify greater user productivity. In other words, foldable phones are a gimmick and the fad might disappear eventually. Let's understand why foldable phones aren't a thing of the future.
What Got Us Here?
Well, the constant need to feed something new to the consumers is possibly the biggest reason for the advent of foldable phones. It's "One does it, rest follow it" mentality basically. Most of the OEMs sustain in the market by their ability to produce an upgraded variant, year after year. To justify the higher pricing of the new model, only camera upgrades and new processors don't suffice.
Hence, the need for a unique design and form factor rises, forcing the companies to bring absurd features that could give them an edge over their contemporaries. Well, a foldable display is one such feature in the eyes of the manufacturers.
However, these features don't have to be table-turning when it comes to functionality but should look unique and cooler compared to the competition. But the foldable phones could face the same fate if a practical and better feature that distinguishes itself from others sees the light of day in the coming days.
Issues Might Prevail
In case, the foldable phones do take off, there are still a lot of engineering challenges the companies will have to overcome. Everyone knows what happened with the Samsung Galaxy Fold just a few days ahead of its launch.
Folding smartphones require a flexible yet durable material which should able to sustain after constant folding and unfolding of the screen. Samsung is said to be working on a breakthrough technology to overcome the issue, but there's no word on the timeline.
Another issue would be the bulkiness of the phones as they accommodate two halves of the screen and a hinge to keep them together. This makes the device inconvenient to carry around. The convenience only shows up during the usage, not otherwise, which is a big tradeoff.
Besides, foldable phones depend mostly on the hinge which is a moving part and another gamble that the manufacturer plays just to be unique from the crowd. However, the hinge weakens over time and could pose new problems in the future.
Moving parts tend to fail over time. Take the power windows used in cars for instance. Even if they do survive, there are other concerns such as placing a protective cover. We might, however, see specifically designed cases for such smartphones. Also, the water and dust resistance of such phones will raise some eyebrows. And, not to mention the cost of repair would be higher than usual.
Lack In Demand
Tech enthusiasts and people with a thing for exclusivity might be the only people to be extremely excited for foldable phones. But apart from that, it's unlikely that the new concept will see a huge demand.
While the experts predict that gadget freaks will grab one instantly, the general consumers might hold themselves due to the lack of productivity quotient and mainstream popularity of the phones.
On top of that, the prices for foldable smartphones will be ridiculously high. For instance, the Samsung Galaxy Fold was announced for a price of $1,980, which would cost a fortune to a normal customer. And if the concept doesn't live up to the hype, even the technology freaks might quickly switch to the next trend.
Developments So Far
It might sound new, but the flexible displays have been around for a while. Samsung launched the Galaxy S series with displays curved at either end. LG also came up with its G Flex that had a similar ring to it.
This shows how the manufacturers have been tingling with the idea of foldable phones. LG also showcased its 65-inch rollable OLED TV earlier this year. Since the innovation in the smartphone industry is going down, the companies are looking for a display-based revolution. Samsung's upcoming technology will use of hybrid polymer-glass substrate to make the devices more durable.
The one thing that these foldable phones have in their favor is the ability to flex and highly resilient nature, which is hard to find in the current generation of smartphones.
Besides, the foldable phones wouldn't require a protective glass for accidental drops and will be lightweight as well. Also, if the production of such devices increases, the screens would be cheap to produce.
Patents With Potential
Huawei's latest patent shows two folding hinges instead of one. This will make for an ultra-wide tablet, a tent, and also transform into a double handheld display.
Apple has also jumped the bandwagon and patented a foldable phone. The device will have a similar design as the Galaxy Fold and the users will be able to switch easily between the iPhone and iPad-mode. Motorola's new patent for a foldable phone, on the other hand, looks like the modern version of the iconic Moto Razr.
While all these OEMs are poised at making foldable phones, LG seems to have halted its plans to develop a foldable smartphone after evaluating the current market viability. It's possible that the company wants to take time and work on the technology before rushing into the launch.
Besides, Xiaomi and Oppo are also said to bringing their foldable phones soon. Almost all the patents look a bit similar to one another with added functionality. Well, how many of these patents become a reality, only time will tell.
Only Innovation Is The Key
The only thing that could save the day for foldable phones is innovation. If the OEMs take more time and bring some game-changing features, instead of rushing into launch before anyone else, it could prove the experts otherwise.
If the companies bring something that lives for years to follow, only then the foldable devices stand a chance to stick around. The biggest example would be the first-ever iPhone, launched a decade ago. We still use phones that are reminiscent of the original design and haven't found a true alternative yet.
Besides, the companies will have to trim down the cost of the foldable devices if they want high consumer engagement. If they continue to sell them as novelty products, the demands are unlikely to surge.
If these aspects go unnoticed, then it would be difficult to see foldable handsets as the future wave of smartphones.