The Age of Foldable Phones
With a new era for smartphones dawning through designs of foldable display screens, we take a look at some previously released foldable phones and what the future holds for this dynamic tech.
We cannot go without using our smartphones even for a day, and so it goes without saying that the technology is now an essential part of our daily lives. In the past few decades, technology has evolved at a rapid rate and the world of smartphones is no stranger to this dynamic evolution. With gradual increments in performance, design and features we now have phones that are the size of our hand but have more processing power than even a laptop!
Every year tech favourites release constantly upgraded, newer versions of devices along with entirely new products and models as well. However, there comes a certain point when even the newest model or device has small insignificant changes that, while they do definitely increase the performance, storage or camera quality, are not too different from the previous versions. There is only so much the designers can do in the smartphone territory and this up until recently lead to a notion that smartphones were becoming monotonous.
One thing that has managed to pull people’s attention back in the world of futuristic tech advancement has been the introduction of screen-bending, foldable devices. Screen-folding phones until 2018 seemed like a fantasy concept, that eventually when it did manifest, was thought to have probably been created by tech giants either Apple or Samsung. But as its happens, the worlds first-ever foldable phone was released by a Chinese company called Royole.
Royole’s 'FlexPai' was made available to pre-order, exclusively in China, from October 31st, 2018. The FlexPai was a high spec phone with 6 gigabytes of RAM, 128 gigabytes of storage, and a large primary display that could be folded into a smaller one as well.
However, it turned out that the hands-on experience of the phone was pretty disappointing and came complete with several issues ranging from chunky software to the questionable build quality of the hardware.
Although we do have to give the Royole FlexPai credit for being the first screen-foldable phone in the market, it also showed us that being first doesn’t necessarily mean being best. On November 8th of 2018, Samsung announced their 'Infinity Flex Display', a screen technology that could be folded in half.
A working prototype was shown to audiences and that had a large inner display that could be folded close to show a smaller outer display. The design of the prototype was hidden at the time but resulted in what we now know as the Galaxy Fold.
In February 2019, two new foldable phones were announced: the Samsung Galaxy Fold and Huawei Mate X. There was nothing common between the two devices - while the Galaxy Fold had a larger inner display that folded shut to reveal a resulting, tiny 4.6-inch display, the Mate X had only one display that could be folded outward so that it didn't matter whether the phone was open or closed - you were still using the same display. At the time, these two devices managed to grab market attention, and resulted in the beginning of a new technological era.
Samsung shipped their newest creation to YouTubers and tech reviewers all over the world, only to realise that their device had a major flaw that was leading to irreversible damage! Three days before the launch of the Galaxy Fold Samsung announced that they would have to delay its release and called back all the review units that had been sent out.
However, after a delay of 5 months, a new and improved Samsung Galaxy Fold was announced which was essentially the same phone in terms of specs, but had a few design tweaks that made it much more durable and stronger compared to the previous one.
The next couple of months also saw various other companies such as Motorola, Oppo, and Xiaomi all announce or reveal new foldable phone designs, although some of these devices remained a concept and were never actually released.
Motorola decided that it was time for them to step back into the smartphone territory and released the RAZR. Taking inspiration from their iconic RAZR flip phone that was released in 2003 and became a pop-culture symbol in its own right, the brand new Motorola RAZR was a technologically advanced flip phone to fit in with the current trends and times.
When open, the phone looked like any other smartphone with a full screen touch display screen, but the new foldable feature makes it possible to close the screen into half its size! Apart from brining back a serious nostalgic element, the design of the phone received a lot of praise as well.
Unfortunately, the RAZR didn’t hold the spotlight for long and was overtaken by Samsung who released their version of a flip phone, which was not only similar to the RAZR but also a lot cheaper.
It was clear at this point that foldable phones were deemed the next big trend and tech innovation in the smartphone sphere. With multiple first generation devices being released by companies all over the world, it was clear there was a real scope for pursuing this idea and constantly improving it to make it better. The release of the second generation Galaxy Fold that was announced earlier this year further proved this hypothesis.
While the designs and features may vary from brand to brand, one thing that all of these foldable devices have in common are the outrageous price points. Marketed by companies as luxury products - and rightly so, given the price tag, these phones retail from anywhere between $1500 (Rs. 1,10,300 approx.) to $2000 (Rs. 1,47,070 approx.) and above!
There is no denying that foldable device designs are here to stay, and we can't wait to see how else this new innovative technology is incorporated into the tech world - perhaps in tablets and laptops, down the line? We can only hope that along with improvements in the design and features there is hopefully a more affordable price tag in the future as well!