There was a time, not too long ago, when our mobile phones resembled fun little gadgets and not identical rectangular bricks, indistinguishable from model to model or brand to brand. Features in these cellular phones meant hardware that one can see instead of the software-dependent features we see in modern smartphones. If the box said it plays MP3, you can expect the phone to have physical buttons to play music like that Nokia 5310. If your new phone was designed with gaming in mind, you can expect it to look like a gaming console like the Nokia N-Gage. It was a time when sliding keyboards were sought-after and FOLDABLE phones were the norm.
Those years are certainly far behind us. The phone we have now had more capabilities than even the most powerful PC 10 years ago. The modern look of our phones stems from years of evolution and avoiding past mistakes. But were they really all mistakes?
In recent years, we’re seeing a rise in mobile phone nostalgia. Nokia recently revamped one of its popular models, the indestructible 3310, to make it suitable for modern use. Refusing to be one-upped, Motorola also released their own phone nostalgia by taking their most popular model, the Motorola Razr, and creating a fully touched-screen model that – wait for it – folds. Other brands were quick to follow. Samsung has its own Galaxy Z Flip and Z Fold, Microsoft with their Surface Duo, Huawei’s Mate X and Mate Xs, and LG’s GbX ThinQ.
With all these phone brands revitalizing and reinventing our idea of a modern phone, is going back to flip phones really the best course of action? Let’s dive deeper into the reemergence of flip phones and see what are their strengths and weakness. And let’s find out if it has a place in this modern and increasingly digital age.
Let’s start with the negative and move our way towards the positives.
The cheapest entry-level iPhone 12, the latest model from Apple, will run you about $799. This model has everything we expect a modern smartphone to have. On the other hand, the cheapest foldable phone, the Royole Flexpai, will cost about $1,000. However, you can’t expect the same performance from this phone as other brick models. Going for a foldable from a popular brand like Samsung’s Galaxy Fold will cost nearly $2,000. Foldables are not for the casual mobile users; it is for early adopters with cash to spare.
Size and weight
A common complaint that a lot of cellphone users have about modern smartphones is their bigger screens which makes it almost impossible to fit them into our pockets. Unfortunately, you will be faced with the same issue if you go the foldable route. In fact, it is only the Motorola Razr 2019 that can comfortably fit into jean pockets. The rest will have to be carried around in your hand or a purse. Foldables also weighs almost twice as much as brick phones. A bigger screen and bigger battery will mean your foldable when unfolded will take up as much space as a tablet.
Foldables are considered to be new in the game of smartphones. They rely on new hardware just recently developed which means it will face a lot of issues in the first couple of years. Some of the major hardware complaints when it comes to foldables include the folding hinge, the folding screen, and touch response. There is a reason why brick phones have become the norm in recent years. The fewer moving parts a gadget has, the less likely it is to break. Folding phones, by their very nature, will require at least a hinge to open and close the screen. Other models will have more parts to make them more appealing to consumers. All these hinges and clasps will inevitably break, even more so for the first few foldable models.
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An under-appreciated feature of modern smartphones is how it integrates with existing software. Having one single slap of screen means developers don’t have to tweak their programs to fit different size screens. But folding phones have different screen features. Some open like a butterfly’s wings while others slide to increase its screen size. And there are others with two separate screens connected with a hinge. Obviously, app developers will have to adjust how each app functions in these different screen configurations, and that takes time, effort, and money. The full potential of foldables is still untapped because of this hurdle.
With a bigger screen comes a bigger space to do more things. A big selling factor for foldable phones is the fact that you can do more things without switching from app to app. A bigger screen means you can watch a video on one side while taking notes on the other. You can use the voice recorder while playing a game. Foldables are trying to bridge that gap between a tablet and a phone. The Moto Razr, Galaxy Fold, and Mate X can be used folded just like any regular smartphone, or it can be used just like a tablet when it is unfolded.
In the same vein as the previous, the bigger display size of foldables means fewer frustrations when it comes to tasks done on the phone. Looking through documents, spreadsheets, and even videos are much more manageable than doing it on a regular smartphone. Watching Youtube videos and Netflix won’t be as awkward since the screen isn’t so small. A phone with a bigger screen shouldn’t come as a surprise. For years, manufacturers have tried (and failed) to create phones with bigger screens. The ability to fold makes foldables more practical for daily use.
When we first heard of foldables being introduced to the general public, a lot of people were very excited and not just because of the nostalgia factor. It is still fresh on people’s minds how convenient and flexible the older flip phones were. It easily fits into pockets and can do more things than standard brick phones. These new foldables promise the same flexibility and convenience. They can be carried just like any smartphone today yet they come with more features and capabilities.
At this point, it’s hard to tell if the future of mobile is going to be foldables. It took the modern smartphone years before it settled on its current design and features. Foldables still have a long way to go. And I don’t know about you, but I’m quite excited to see what these nifty gadgets have in store.