Last week in San Francisco, D J Koh, Samsung Electronics’s president and CEO of IT & Mobile Communications Division, called the Galaxy Fold the “next chapter in mobile innovation”, big enough to change “what’s possible in a smartphone”. Samsung’s new Galaxy Fold triggered the start of a whole new category.
Samsung says its foldable phone is meant for those who “want to experience what a premium foldable device can do, beyond the limitations of a traditional smartphone”. But in Barcelona today, Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei consumer business group, took to stage with a different take on the foldable phone.
The Huawei Mate X looks like a regular smartphone with a 6.6-inch screen with its rear panel folding towards the front to offer an 8-inch tablet. This is more of a regular smartphone and can be used like a regular smartphone with a panel at the rear too.
In contrast, the Galaxy Fold in a way has one screen outside and a large screen inside, while the Mate X is two screens, one up front and one in the rear. So the folded Galaxy Fold is a slightly old looking smartphone, which unfolds to present a stunning 7.3-inch screen powered by an Infinity Flex Display, an hinge under it which cannot be seen.
At first look, the Mate X seems a more natural way to do the fold, and somewhere, Huawei seems to have saved some money too by having taken what seems like an easier route to solve the problem. But then it is way more expensive than the Samsung Fold.
There is one more advantage. The Mate X seems to be a better phone on its own, before you come to the fold. The Galaxy Fold has a smaller standalone screen, compared to the 6.3-inch screen of the Mate X. That might make it more palatable to many users.
Both these phones can potentially change the way we work on a smartphone, taking multi-tasking to a whole new level. But then I’m wondering why we never wanted three-app multi-tasking — which Samsung is offering on the Fold — on a tablet with a larger screen where it would have been a more logical feature to have.
A lot of what the Fold and Mate X will do will be based on ensuring app continuity. The shift from the single experience to the large screen has to be seamless. Otherwise, you will lose the user and the use case.
Also, even now we don’t know what the use case is for a foldable phone. It is not as if users have been clamouring for one all along. Yes, as they did with the iPhone, it is possible users will start using foldable phones like never imagined even by the creators.
Also, let’s not forget the fact that as with all new technologies, the cost of the two foldable phones is way more than what most users can afford. If you thought the Galaxy Fold was expensive at $1980, the Huawei Mate X is priced close to $2600. At least on price, these phones are a fold above the rest.