Well dear readers, it’s Mobile World Convention 2019 time. Held once again in Barcelona, the event is for mobile device companies to tout their latest innovations and advances. All the big players will be there showing off their Greatest Ever Products. One of the new trends that’s been cooking in the background is foldable phones. But is this just a fad, or is it really The FutureTM?
We know for example that mobile phone manufacturers have experimented with the form factor. Some people wanted bigger phones, some preferred smaller ones. There have been “phablets” which married the size of a small tablet with the functionality of a phone. Such Phrankenstein devices tended to make the users compromise between portability, size and weight and being able to see what they were doing.
Enter foldable phones. Tech journalists here (and from other publications) have covered this topic before, with speculation mounting that such devices were just a hop, skip and jump away. With Samsung announcing that they were the first with a working device, the Samsung Fold, it was inevitable that it would not be the last.
During MWC, Huawei announced that it too has been making foldable phones. The Huawei Mate X has followed hot on its heels and now we find out that Oppo also has one in the works. No doubt a Oneplus version of Oppo’s will also be developed.
So just what about these foldable phones is so attractive to manufacturers and, we assume, the end customer? It’s the ability to move from a small screen to a large screen in the one device. However, there are indeed compromises when considering one, not least the price. Samsung’s Fold is in the vicinity of US$2,000 which would get close to $3,000 in Australia once all the taxes have been added in. Huawei’s is apparently even more than this.
Now AU$3,000 is a lot of money. When you consider that a flagship phone costs about half of that now (more if you want a Galaxy Note or Apple whatever), this means that you’re buying one phone for the price of two. Now it might be worth it for some people; busy executives who want to travel as light as possible. No need for a tablet when you already have one in your pocket.
But is three grand worth this extra little tid-bit of convenience for the common folk? It might be if the manufacturers can sell that value proposition to potential customers. People laughed at the original iPhone’s requirement for a daily charge of power. That ended well for companies like Blackberry.
Foldable phones could be the next iteration in the evolution of the smartphone. But the prices of the first models might be their downfall. It would be easy to dismiss this as a fad, but if the price is right, we could all be carrying them in our pockets in the future.