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In a fast-moving world growing universally reliable on smartphones, the need for a foldable smartphone is becoming increasingly popular. While we gradually move toward bigger screens and yet smaller footprints, we have to ask ourselves: are foldable phones worth it in 2022?
Emergence Of The Foldable Phone:
Since the unveiling of the first iPhone in 2007, phones released in the last 15 years have looked quite similar, with very few external design changes except for the phone and screen size increasing every iteration. But just when we thought innovation was slowing down for smartphones, the industry quickly started focusing on an unusual form factor: the foldable phone.
Foldable Phone Revolution:
The folding phone revolution, spearheaded by the release of Royole Flexpai in 2018, was pushed further when one of the mainstream companies, Samsung, announced their foldable phone lineup, The Galaxy Fold Series in 2019.
Since then, the popularity of foldable phones has been skyrocketing.
Since the release of the first folding smartphones, the cumulative worldwide shipment of foldables has reached 11.5 million units by the end of 2021, according to a report by Omdia.
The same report says that the global shipment of foldable phones grew 309% year-on-year in 2021, with 9 Million units shipped.
The Industry’s Stance On Foldable Smartphones:
When the first folding phone, the Royole Flexpai, was announced in 2018, both the consumers and the industry were sceptical of the new form factor. The much-higher price tag, 1st-gen technology, and questions on the durability were few of the many reasons to be sceptical of the folding form factor, and they were rightfully so. But in the last four years, the foldable market has seen a sharp rise, and the smartphone industry’s focus is slowly converging on folding phones.
Samsung is unquestionably the leading contender in the Folding Phone Market, with no one even remotely close to their sales numbers.
Among the 9 million units of foldables shipped in 2021, 8 million were shipped in the second half of the year when Samsung launched their Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Galaxy Z Flip 3 devices.
Currently, Samsung is working on the Galaxy Z Fold 4 and Galaxy Z Flip 4.
The Oppo Find N is Oppo’s first attempt in the folding phone category. Despite being late to the game, Oppo has already created ripples throughout the industry on its first try. With the Find N, the company has delivered a phone with some designs, functionalities and features that often overshadow its competition while maintaining lower pricing.
While Google still doesn’t have a foldable out for consumers yet, numerous leaks and rumours are that they’re working on releasing a foldable device in the coming years.
In the meantime, Google has been working hard in the software department to optimise its apps and operating system to work more smoothly on foldables and tablets.
While Xiaomi’s Mi Mix Fold didn’t reach the company’s sales expectations, it did create a customer base that Xiaomi seems to put a good amount of support into. The Mix fold still receives updates that improve the foldable experience, and Xiaomi has recently released the Mi Mix 2.
While numerous rumours and reports say that Apple is currently working on a foldable device, there are no official statements to prove that. While Apple is often slow to adopt a trend, they’re known for its polished execution.
Microsoft’s attempts at foldable phones with the Surface Duo and Surface Duo 2 have brought in a largely mixed response from customers and critiques. While the first Surface duo was a disaster, Microsoft has come a long way in trying to make the experience better with the Duo 2.
Other companies didn’t hold back from trying out their own hands at this brand new prospect. Motorola Moto Razr 5G, Huawei Mate X series, TCL Trifold, and Vivo X Fold are each their respective company’s attempts at foldable devices.
Pros And Cons Of Foldable Smartphones:
The most important and most apparent advantage foldable phones have over a typical smartphone is a bigger screen that fits into a smaller physical footprint of a phone. The ability to change the screen sizes according to need makes way for many new possibilities. It’s like having the benefits of a tablet phone without most of the drawbacks.
The bigger screen on foldable smartphones has brought forward some real changes to multitasking on smartphones.
Currently, folding smartphones cost much higher than regular smartphones while delivering lower specs. For example, let’s compare the $1799 Z Fold 3 with the $1119 Galaxy S22. Even though Fold 3 came out much later than the S22 Ultra, it falls behind in Battery, Cameras, RAM options, Screen Quality, and Pixel Density.
Since foldable technology is still pretty new, the industry hasn’t given the time and effort to fully optimise the experience. As a result, the new foldable phone user experience is not 100% smooth and intuitive.
While the durability of folding phones has improved in the last few years, it’s fair to say that with all the moving parts, folding phones are objectively less durable than typical smartphones.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):
How long do foldable phones last?
The longevity will vary depending on how people use their equipment. While the first-generation foldable phones were pretty weak in terms of durability, the latest generations of foldable phones are almost as good as regular phones.
How many times can you fold a foldable phone?
The Galaxy Z Fold4 and Z Flip4 have been tested to handle over 200,000 folds before breaking. This translates into 100 folds every day for five years.
Will foldable phones become mainstream?
The global shipment of foldable phones grew 309% year-on-year in 2021, with 9 Million units shipped. To add to it, all manufacturers are starting to bite into the foldable sector. Samsung has just released their 4th Generation foldable phone series, after their massive success with the 3rd Generation. At this rate, foldables phones will be a mainstream product within the next 5 years.
Which is the best foldable phone?
Given the hardware and software support, Samsung Galaxy Z Fold4 is undoubtedly the best foldable phone right now.
How many foldable phones has Samsung sold?
So far, Samsung has sold over 10 million foldable phones until the end of 2021.
Are Foldable Phones waterproof?
As of right now, only Samsung’s current lineup of the latest Fold phones is IPX8-rated water resistant.
Are foldable phones durable?
While they definitely don’t match the durability of regular smartphones, they’re improving steadily to catch up with the rest.
Are foldable phones popular?
With every new foldable release, the popularity of foldable phones only increase.
For a more detailed and extensive FAQ, read our Foldables FAQ Guide:
Conclusion: Is A Foldable Smartphone Worth It?
Right now, the perks of owning a foldable phone don’t really outweigh the drawbacks, given the high price we need to pay for one.
But that’s not going to be the case in just a few years. The proper utilisation of foldable technology is just getting started, and there are many reasons to be excited about its future.
Let’s see this with the help of an analogy:
When Steve Jobs showed off the first iPhone, the only things we could do with it were listen to music, call people, and use websites that weren’t even optimised for phones.
But now, 15 years later, smartphones are an inseparable part of our lives. No one would’ve been able to predict that someday, we could have a car waiting for us downstairs and groceries waiting at our doorsteps, all through a few swipes on our smartphones. Like Steve Jobs once said, the dots can only be connected by looking backwards.
So while folding phones don’t currently fit in as the perfect device for most users, with enough improvements within the next few years, they hold the potential to be a stepping stone to something much better: a single device for all occasions and circumstances, while still fitting in our pockets.