Samsung has become the first mainstream smartphone manufacturer to show the world a foldable phone concept. The device has been in the works for a few years and it is not surprising to see Samsung make a big deal about the company’s “Infinity Flex” flexible display technology. The prototype device has a tablet-like screen and can be folded to fit into your pocket. The concept is indeed fascinating, but questions remain about how a foldable phone will work, how much it will cost and what utility it will offer the user.
Is it a tablet or a phone?
Let’s be clear: Samsung’s foldable phone is basically a tablet that can be folded to become a smaller smartphone. Though Samsung likes to call this device a phone, it is a tablet at the end of the day. Samsung’s idea seems to prove that a tablet can become a phone — but then users will have to live with a small 4.6-inch display, thick bezels and a fat phone. Will people want to use a small screen display, especially when a larger screen is just one fold away is something we will have to see.
At first sight it seems like the 4.6 inch screen with 21:9 aspect ratio won’t be such a compelling experience. Let’s hope the 7.3-inch tablet experience is superior enough for users to overlook this. So the smaller secondary screen will be primarily for checking messages and statuses and to help with easy stowage. And this concept is not really new. Remember the Motorola Razr, which even had a secondary screen outside its clamshell?
Will this phone be bulkier and heavier?
While smartphone manufacturers are working hard to make phones thinner and lighter, a foldable phone appears at least initially heavier and bulkier. Samsung didn’t mention the size of the device, but from what we saw, it is going to have a brick shape and much thicker than anything out there. We don’t know much about the weight, but for context the heaviest phones now are not more than 210 grams.
What will be the price of the foldable phone?
Speculation is rife that first foldable phone will also be a $2000 (or approx Rs 1,45, 350) phone. The price does not seem all that outlandish given where premium phone prices have been headed of late. The new flexible display itself will add to the cost of manufacturing substantially. Then there is the new material for chassis, which again will be costly in the initial production runs.
How do apps work on a foldable phone?
Samsung said that the Infinity Flex display represents “a new mobile platform”, but we have more questions than answers. At the moment, we only know that you can run three apps simultaneously thanks to a new feature called multi-active window. We also know that Google is officially supporting phones with foldable displays, which means apps will run smoothly as the device folds and offer “screen continuity”. Samsung didn’t offer a demo of the UI or how apps work, so we are not sure about Samsung’s revamped interface.
Do we need a foldable phone?
But the real question is different. We need to ask why we need a foldable phone and how it will better our digital lives? Samsung did not offer any uses cases so we don’t know where a foldable phone fits in. Also, is this going to make the present form factor redundant or usher in a rebirth for tablets? Frankly, Samsung has left us with more questions than answers. Guess we will have to wait for the answers.