You’ve probably seen the marketing videos, heard the rumors, and read all about what is predicted to be the next big craze in smartphone technology. It’s not bigger, it’s not smaller, more powerful, easier connected, user-friendly, or even the return of the standard headphone jack.
It’s foldable phones.
Remember them? Back in the 90s, everyone wanted the coveted Razr flip phone. All the cool kids had them. There was nothing as satisfying as the sound of that device closing to hang up a call. Scully and Mulder made that hangup famous in X Files. And we all believed.
But the 90s faded, and so too did the flip phone. No longer were we enamored with the soft click of that device snapping shut to indicate you’d just hung up on someone. Now it’s an unsatisfying tap.
Unless smartphone manufacturers have anything to do with it. The likes of Samsung and Razr want to bring that flip phone back, only this time with a folding screen. In fact, both companies are on the cusp of releasing those devices to the masses. And although some might believe those folding screens are the next-gen tech that will lead the smartphone industry out of a looming case of doldrums, they are a bad idea.
No matter if you’re a user, a cellular provider, or a collective of custom software developers (as those you’ll find in companies like BairesDev), those foldable devices are a disaster in the waiting.
Let me explain.
The problem with foldable phones begins with moving parts. Up until now, with the exception of a few outliers, smartphones contained zero moving parts. Those outliers tend to be gimmicky devices with things like rotating cameras or pull out keyboards. Although those ideas might be good on paper, the reality is, moving parts almost always become victims of entropy.
In other words, things break. With foldable phones, you have hinges. Consider this live hinge test, performed by CNET, where a Moto Razr failed after 27,000 folds. Even beyond the catastrophic failure, the sounds the hinges beginning to fail (almost immediately) are cringe worthy. And given how rough we can be with our mobile devices, it’s only a matter of time before those moving parts break.
And, chances are, those moving parts are going to fail long before the CPU, RAM, and other chipsets would give up the ghost. On top of that, think about the lint, sand, and other debris that gets trapped in our pockets. At some point that debris is going to make its way onto and into your device, impeding the clean and free movement of those hinges. That is a recipe for breakage. One day you’ll go to open that device up, and it won’t budge; you’ll force it open and a hinge (or two) will snap.
You just destroyed your $1,000+ USD phone.
You don’t have to look too far to see a perfect example of the dreaded screen crease in a foldable device. Engadget has published images of Samsung Z Flip, complete with screen crease.
Although you might not see this as a deal-breaker, imagine how that crease is going to age. And then consider the functionality impact of that crease? Over time, as the crease begins to develop worse (and permanent) indentations, that portion of the screen could become unusable.
The location of that screen crease (horizontally at the midsection of the display) can make for challenging usage of the device. What happens when that portion of the screen becomes completely unresponsive to touch? With screen real estate already at a premium for mobile devices, the idea of losing even an eighth of an inch across the midsection can be a serious hamper to efficiency.
Finally, there’s the cost. The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip will retail for around $1,400 USD. The Motorola Razr Flip will retail for $1,499 USD. That’s a significant cost for something you’ll probably replace in two years (if the hardware lasts that long).
The price of foldable phones places them out of reach for the average consumer. This is especially so when you consider the Samsung Galaxy S20 (their top-tier flagship device) will sell for $999 USD and the Google Pixel 4 (Google’s flagship phone) sells for $699 USD.
When you’re paying such exorbitant prices for a device with almost inevitable failure built-in, it doesn’t take dedicated custom software development teams to conclude that said purchase is a bad idea.
Of course, in the end, the decision is yours. Is the ability to fold your smartphone in half worth the risk and the cost? If you’re one who likes to be the first on the block to have new technology, and you don’t mind the risk factor involved with moving parts and crease-able screens, then go for it. Otherwise, you’d be better off shelling out half or three-quarters of the price for a device that’ll last longer and perform better.