[Written By External Partner]
Foldable phones have come a long way since their inception just a few years ago. In 2023, they are now mainstream devices that have been refined and perfected by companies like Samsung, Motorola, and Huawei. Let’s take a look back at how these innovative devices have evolved over the past few years.
The first foldable phone released to the public was the Royole FlexPai in 2018. This device featured a 7.8” flexible AMOLED display that could fold outward into a tablet. While novel, the FlexPai was bulky, had a poor user interface, and was riddled with durability issues. This first-generation device retailed for an astronomical $1,300, pricing it well out of reach for most consumers. At this point, foldable phones were still very much experimental and novel. The steep price tag and design flaws made it difficult for them to gain widespread adoption, but the potential of this technology was already evident.
Other companies like Huawei and Samsung showcased prototypes in 2018, but delayed launching foldable devices until issues like screen durability could be resolved. Also, It’s likely that software needed more time for optimization on the new form factors.
Compared to other industries, this challenge echoed what gambling software provider companies faced when transitioning desktop platforms to mobile. Completely reimagining software interaction requires overcoming unique UX hurdles. Samsung and Huawei were wise to take more time refining the user experience before bringing foldables to market.
In 2019, foldable phones started gaining traction with Samsung releasing the Galaxy Fold and Huawei announcing the Mate X. These devices captured consumer interest with their ability to transform from a phone to a mini tablet. The Galaxy Fold featured a 7.3” inner display and a 4.6” outer display while the Mate X had one flexible 8” OLED screen. With these new devices, it was clear that the foldable phone market was here to stay. The concept had evolved beyond the initial prototypes, and companies were getting closer to perfecting the technology.
Despite improved durability, both devices still suffered from issues like screen creasing and breakage. They remained niche products with the Galaxy Fold costing $1,980 and the Mate X priced at around $2,600. Still, foldables were clearly the future. While these prices were still very high, the technology was starting to get into the hands of consumers and the feedback was generally positive. The unique functionality and innovative designs of these devices were slowly but surely starting to catch on.
By 2021, foldable phones from Samsung, Motorola, and Huawei became more affordable and durable. Prices dropped, putting them in reach of more consumers looking for the latest tech. As production scaled and technology advanced, the prices of these phones started to decrease, bringing them within reach for a larger audience.
The Galaxy Z Fold 3 solved the creasing issue with the first Under Display Camera on a foldable. The Motorola Razr reimagined the iconic flip phone in a new folding form. And the Huawei Mate X2 impressed with its sleek design and Falcon Wing Hinge. Consumers could now choose from a variety of foldable phones, each with its own unique features and design. The market for foldable phones was rapidly expanding, with more options available to consumers, both in terms of price and design.
In 2023, foldable phones are now established members of the smartphone lineup. Screens are more durable than ever with some touting 200,000 folds before signs of wear. Prices have also come down considerably with devices like the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 retailing for $999. Foldable phones are no longer just a novelty; they are now a viable option for everyday use, providing functionality and convenience that traditional smartphones simply cannot match.
New form factors like the Oppo Find N with its landscape oriented inner display have emerged. And nearly every major manufacturer like Xiaomi, Vivo, and Google is said to be working on foldable devices. This has spurred competition among manufacturers, leading to more innovation and faster development in the foldable phone space. As more manufacturers enter the foldable market, consumers are expected to see an even wider array of options in terms of designs, features, and price points.
Moving forward, foldables will likely continue to improve while shedding weight and cost. Rumors point to a future iPhone foldable as Apple enters the space. Screens are also getting more durable with recent demonstrations showing folding glass that can bend over 200,000 times without damage. With advancements in materials science and manufacturing technology, foldable phones are expected to become even more robust and reliable. The potential for innovation in this space is vast, and we are likely to see new and exciting developments in the near future.