A few years ago, YouTubers looking to make a name for themselves were walking into Apple Stores and filming themselves bending plus-sized iPhones in the name of page views. Some people who were fond of keeping their phones in their back pockets and sitting on them were upset by the fact that large, thin phones could bend under pressure. Thus, bend-gate was born.
Today, companies like Samsung are in a race to provide you a phone that is not only supposed to bend but fold. According to the Verge, “Samsung teases its foldable phone reveal with social media avatars.”
“The phone, which is expected to feature a tablet-sized screen that can be folded to fit in your pocket, has been rumored for almost half a decade now. (A concept trailer was even produced about it back in 2013.) Earlier this year, Samsung’s CEO teased that we might see a reveal at the developer’s conference, although we might have to wait until next year for a public release.”
Folding phones have been on the verge of release for almost six years. We have seen cringe-worthy concept videos of devices that no one wants.
But the competition for this heretofore vaporware product is heating up. Last week, there was a lot of noise about a product called Royole FlexPai beating Samsung to the punch. But in the storied history of vaporware, the FlexPai is not a phone you can buy in a store and may never be for all we know. It is an active prototype.
It could be the underlying technology of smartphones in the years to come. But remember that everyone else is working on their own underlying technologies. Huawei, Xiaomi, LG, and Lenovo have also announced plans to release a foldable phone. So the race is well and truly on.
What has not been strongly articulated is what need is served by this new technology. The idea is that you can have a tablet that folds down to phone size. Presumably, this would eliminate the need to carry both a smartphone and a tablet. That said, a tablet the size of two phones would still be a pretty small tablet. And a double phone folded up would be a pretty thick and unwieldy phone.
The other problem that needs to be worked out is the software. Apple does a pretty good job with tablet software. But Android has never been able to produce appealing tablet software. Without an Android variant from Google, the OS and software outlook for these foldable tablets are questionable. We will hopefully learn a lot more at the Samsung developer event.