The rapid progress of smartphone technology is indicative of a general trend to allow technology to assist us in our daily lives. When the first iPhone was released in 2007, it brought about a revolution in convenience and productivity. Gone were the days where phones were just tools for communication. As technology developed, they were also used for notetaking, media, and entertainment. They were instrumental in allowing people in remote places to broadcast information and bring about profound and lasting social change. This was a very obvious and visible impact of the role technology was increasingly taking in our lives. Fast-forwarding to 2019 and we are privy to another technological development in mobile phones – the foldable phone.
Foldable phones are phones that can be made more compact. This is done by including a flexible display that can be folded. While they were mostly available in theory, patents and concept designs, foldable phones have become a reality and are now available for the mass market. Although they have finally made an entrance, it is important to keep in mind that the market for foldable phones is not the same one as modern smartphones. This means that foldable phones are not being developed and geared up to replace the smartphone but rather, these devices are targeting a separate submarket of devices. They are geared more towards tablet users instead. This makes sense because the main feature of foldable phones is the large screen. What sets foldable phones apart from tablets is that they can be turned into a smaller form factor that is easier to travel with. Foldable phones also present the exciting technology of flexible displays which has potential beyond smartphones. Flexible displays are sturdier and can be used in a variety of more creative ways than traditional displays. An example would be integrating it into wearables.
The most hyped foldable phone currently available in the Samsung Galaxy Fold. It is a 7.3-inch phone that costs $1980. The phone can be folded into a 4.6-inch form factor. The main contender for the Galaxy Fold is the Huawei Mate X which folds down from an 8-inch display to a 6.6 inch one. It is priced at $2,600. Other manufacturers such as Apple, Google, Xiaomi and Oppo have also released either competitors or concept devices that can be folded so it is safe to say that foldable phones are here to stay. What is important to note is the price of these devices is well above $1000 which is the starting price for premium smartphones. Hence, these manufacturers are well aware of which segment of the market they need to target as potential customers for these devices.
Foldable phones present an exciting new development in the race to produce, better and more useful devices. The technology has developed enough for it to be used by customers and this means that there will be a lot more devices and applications employing flexible displays. What remains to be seen is how creatively we embrace this technology in our daily lives.