Foldable Smartphones – Worth the Cost?

Smartphone design has remained relatively steady for the past ten years. Screens may have altered in size, bezels have shrunk and other features such as headphone jacks and home buttons have disappeared – but largely, a smartphone from 2019 looks remarkably similar to one from 2009. All that is soon set to change as, in 2019 and 2020, foldable smartphones are set to hit the market. But will they take off?

Bendable AMOLED screens have set manufacturers free, and several plan to launch foldable smartphone products in the next couple of years. These foldable smartphones unfold into tablets, but can then be folded back down into something that resembles a thick smartphone. There are already at least three such foldable smartphones on the horizon.

The first of these is from Samsung and is rumoured to be called either the Galaxy X or Galaxy F. The device was shown (in poor lighting and with careful stage management) on stage at the Annual Developer Conference in San Francisco last November. More will no doubt be revealed at the Samsung Unpacked event on 20th February, where Samsung will reveal it lineup of phones for 2019. Early rumours, however, indicate that Samsung’s folding phone could cost as much as $2,000, making it more expensive even that the high-end Apple iphones. This begs the question – will it really be worth the cost?

Another foldable phone is the Flexpai from Royole, which was shown off at CES. This is the first foldable smartphone to the market. The Flexpai is already selling in China for the equivalent of around $1,300, and Americans can buy a developer’s version for around the same price. Those who have spent time with this smartphone, however, have largely been less than impressed. While it does fold down, it is still very, very bulky when you do so.

Finally, Lenovo is set to relaunch the Motorola Razr brand with a flip phone with a foldable screen inside. While not yet announced, it is believed that this model will cost around $1,500 and be Verison exclusive.

So, foldable smartphones – are they set to revolutionise smartphone design, or are they just an expensive gimmick for the current (rather desperate) smartphone manufacturers? The answer remains to be seen.

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