Folding smartphones have been out there for quite some time now, and with every iteration, they seem to be getting even more desirable. However, despite all the efforts the companies have been putting in, the folding phone trend isn't really catching up. I mean people do buy them, but the number is still pretty low. So, why aren't those folding smartphones mainstream yet? That's what I want to discuss with you in this article.
The Modern Folding Smartphones
Folding phones aren't necessarily a new concept. In the past, we have had phones that folded in half, but those had the display on the top portion and the physical keyboard in the bottom section. However, thanks to folding OLED display technology, we got new phones that have a screen that can fold in different form factors. Those older flip-style phones have evolved where a tall display flips to become a smaller square-ish device. There are also the foldables that unfold from somewhat a regular smartphone-like form factor to become a big tablet.
There are multiple companies that are currently making foldable smartphones, and although Samsung currently dominates this space, Chinese OEMs like OPPO, Xiaomi, and Huawei have been making headlines with their current generation products.
Samsung's Galaxy Z Fold 4 and Z Flip 4 are definitely the most hyped and probably the most widely available foldable smartphones right now. However, Motorola's 2022 RAZR and OPPO's Find N are bringing in some real competition. Even Xiaomi's Mix Fold 2 has some really impressive attributes this year, and it's clear that it's taking notes from the Galaxy Z Fold line-up. Huawei on the other hand is playing outside the traditional. Their Mate Xs 2 folds outwards to create an almost wrapped-around display when closed.
Why Folding Smartphones Still Aren't Catching On
Clearly, companies have been coming out with different types of folding smartphones for a while, and they currently cost somewhat similar to flagship smartphones. But, for some reason, there aren't many folding smartphone users out there right now. Most people just buy a regular smartphone instead and stick to it.
But, aren't folding smartphones supposed to be the next big thing? Well, in a way they are a major step-up and also somewhat of a next-gen product, but sadly they're not as reliable as their mainstream competition. At least as of now, that is.
Perhaps the biggest concern about folding phones right now is durability. Part of being able to fold that display in half means using a flexible OLED screen. While that part isn't that complicated anymore, the protection on the top is where it gets messy.
Initially, companies were using a plastic top layer which was super easy to puncture and even day-to-day use could've caused accidents. Now, companies have moved to a very thin flexible glass top layer, and although it's really impressive, it's still now as durable as the hard glass display protection that you get in regular smartphones. That means you can still get your display damaged quite easily if you're not being careful.
Even the leading companies haven't found a permanent solution to durability. Don't get me wrong, but keeping a plastic screen protector on top of the display, simply means that the glass protection isn't durable enough to sustain regular wear and tear. Many users are getting issues with screen damage and in many cases, the screen protector comes off around the folding area after a few months of use. While this can be handled under brand warranty, display damages are not covered which is a huge issue right now. Replacing a folding smartphone's display cost a lot of money.
Pricing & Long-Term Value
Being a new technology on the rise, the manufacturing cost of folding smartphones is high and that reflects in end-user pricing. Folding smartphones cost flagship-level money and as you go for better models or higher configurations, the prices become way more expensive than you'd want them to be.
However, with all the durability concerns floating around, these phones won't last as long as mainstream flagship smartphones. So, although these cost as much or more than their mainstream competition, the long-term value isn't nearly as good. So, regular flagships are still safe bets for users. Seems like current folding smartphones are for those users who switch their phones every year or maybe every two years at most.
The Small User Base
If you combine all of these factors, you get a very small number of users who can use a folding smartphone. If your budget isn't in that flagship territory, you can't afford one and if you can afford a folding smartphone, you may or may not want to deal with all the risk factors that come with it. a lot of these sales actually happen offline as many people can't resist the futuristic appeal and aren't aware of the shortcomings. But still, very few people end up buying a folding smartphone and that's why you rarely see one during your daily commute.
Should You Get A Folding Smartphone Anyway?
If you are tempted to buy one of these new shiny folding smartphones, you need to keep a few things in mind before you pull the trigger on flagship-grade money. I'm summarizing the ones that matter the most, below.
Folding smartphones are definitely an evolution of modern smartphones and they provide an experience that mainstream flagships just can't catch up to.
The durability concerns are real and if the user isn't careful enough, damaging the display and getting dust and sand grains inside the hinge is still a possibility.
Even when used carefully, current folding smartphones aren't going to last as long as regular flagships, so buy them if only you plan on upgrading in a year or two.
Support may not be available everywhere, so check if you have qualified service centers around before buying.
When folded, these smartphones are literally twice their unfolded thickness, so maybe check at a store if you're comfortable with the thick form factor as you'd need to carry it with you.
If you think that you're okay with the shortcomings and the above factors seem acceptable to you, then sure, go ahead and buy a new foldable smartphone. If however, you find it to be too risky or don't plan on upgrading your phone in several years, then getting a foldable is a bad idea, and regular flagships make more sense for you.
I hope this was helpful and you found exactly what you came expecting with maybe a bit extra goodness. If you know someone who can benefit from all the information above, do share this article with them. Craving more tech munchies? Read something from the articles linked below.