2019 was supposedly going to be the year of the foldable phone.
Yet, there are only a few months left until 2020 and foldables are still only on the periphery of the industry. After generations of refining and improving the smartphone experience, some developers thought that the next logical step would be to offer a tablet-sized screen which could be folded over to fit in the pocket like a smartphone. Samsung and Huawei have both been working on their offerings but, interestingly, Apple hasn’t produced one yet. Although foldables are a fairly new phenomenon, there is a feeling already that they may fail to catch on.
There are clearly a few advantages to having a phone which can fold out and reveal a huge tablet screen. There is little doubt that the developers had gamers in mind when they were designing the new phones. A bigger screen while playing games is undeniably superior, but players also love the convenience of being able to play on the move. Slot games have had a lot of success in the mobile market, and when players play Book of the Dead slots and other popular offerings on Magical Vegas and similar casino sites, they arguably have a more streamlined and refined experience if they play from mobile. Other games like FIFA, Fortnite and PUBG are also now highly playable on modern smartphones.
Foldables could easily appeal to this gaming market, and also to people who do a lot of work from their mobile screen. Having the larger screen makes things like writing and web design possible, and being able to fit the device in one’s pocket means that such work can be done from anywhere. There could also be advantages when editing photos, as it is easier to see smaller things on the larger screen.
But just as the original iPhone took a few years to make it into the mainstream, foldable smartphones could also have to endure a slow start. It may take some time for consumers to trust that the phone will be able to stand up to constant folding and unfolding. Indeed, the early models have come with a note in the description saying how many times it can be done.
Samsung claims that its model can be opened and closed 200,000 times before any potential problems occur, which means that the hinge should be good for around five years. This suggests that there will be little value in owning a new device and then trying to sell it after a few years, as the device could already be quite worn down by that stage. However, it is important to point out that other popular smartphones lose value equally fast thanks to developments in the industry – five years is too long to resell an iPhone for anything more than a meagre fraction of the original value.
The high price of these units is another major off-putting factor for the average consumer. The Samsung Galaxy Fold will cost UK customers a jaw-dropping £1800, while the Huawei Mate X will be £2000. This is a price point that many consumers will baulk at.
It may take a few years for the foldables to go mainstream, as newer generations force the price down on older models. But if the developers can’t guarantee a longer shelf life, they may fail to catch on at all.