Remember the early days of mobile phones? Some of them featured pullout keyboards, pop-up cameras, or a folded design. The form factor has since standardized around a flat shape, but the folding functionality is seemingly making a comeback. For example, the closed phone may look like a thicker version of a normal smartphone with a screen on the outside. When you open it, you see two inner panels side-by-side, creating a screen that’s closer to the size of a small tablet.
This design can be helpful if you want the same convenience in carrying your device, but a larger screen for watching videos, browsing the internet, playing games, emailing, and using more than one app at a time. Initial leaders in this market include Samsung, Huawei, and Lenovo. Apple has yet to jump into the game and some say they may bypass the opportunity and start with a folding iPad instead.
Folding phones are cool and cutting edge, especially for those in the tech industry, like IT outsource professionals. But a number of drawbacks mean they have a long way to go before becoming mainstream. So, do you really need a folding phone? Here are some additional details about them to help you decide.
You may appreciate the functionality of three devices: phone, tablet, and laptop. Each enables you to perform specific functions easily and conveniently. Yet, you may not enjoy having to carry around that many devices. Folding phones solve this issue by essentially combining two of those devices — phone and tablet — into one.
So, the benefit of a folding phone is that you get a phone plus a tablet-sized screen that takes up less space in your pocket or purse. While all those factors are appealing, the design doesn’t always live up to its potential. For example, because of the fold, the internal viewing screen has a seam down the middle that may interfere with optimal operation. When the phone is folded shut, it’s bulkier than a normal phone, so it may not always fit where you want it to.
Part of the appeal of such devices is that you can multifunction, something you can’t easily do on a phone. For example, you can view the weather, browse the internet, and have an email app open all at the same time. But do you really need to multifunction on the go? Or is that the kind of use you would normally reserve for a laptop?
Other features, such as cameras, may not be as robust as in a regular phone. Additionally, Android apps have traditionally not ported well to tablets, and the same may be true for folding tablet-like phones.
While the exterior of a folding phone may be just as durable as that of a standard phone, these devices have other components that may be less so. Rather than glass (which doesn’t bend), they use plastic for the screens. The trade-off here is that plastic is more easily punctured and therefore can be damaged if you press too hard or accidentally scrape it with a fingernail. It can even be damaged if anything from your pocket or purse is on the double screen when you close the device.
The hinge is another physical component that, simply as a result of being a moving part that you will use hundreds of thousands of times, will inevitably wear down or break.
With price tags between $850 and $2,400, folding phones are considerably more expensive than a high-end standard phone or even a very good laptop. For example, a Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 5G costs $1,999 on Amazon. While a folding phone certainly has a fun factor, that may be the only benefit you get for that price. Ask yourself if it’s enough to pay potentially twice as much as you would for a reliable standard smartphone.
Want? Maybe. Need? No
So, do you need a folding phone? The short answer is, “probably not.” You may want one though, if one of the two scenarios apply to you:
- You simply want to be on the bleeding edge of technology and can afford to do so, knowing you’ll be making some pretty significant compromises to be there.
- You have a very specific need for a tablet that’s easier to carry around.
If neither of those situations describes you, consider buying yourself a nice new regular phone and waiting for a later, more mature, generation of folding phones.
Mobile phone manufacturers have been making very good smartphones lately – maybe too good. Customers are keeping their phones longer, meaning those companies are looking for exciting features to entice them to buy something new. Folding phones may be the next generation of smartphones, but —although they’re cool and have some functionality benefits — they’re not quite ready to take the place of the standard we’ve grown used to in the last few years.