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Foldable Phones – What Makes Them a Game Changer

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Long before foldable phones became a thing, in 1996, Motorola Startac was the first to make a clamshsell design available for the public. While not many people fancy Clamshell mobiles presently, they used to be a dream-come-true just a couple of decades ago. 

Their popularity caused Motorola to develop the RAZR model. Because of the thin profile and unique appearance, RAZR remained an exclusive fashion accessory for quite some time. 

However, after selling more than 130 million units and topping the podium as the best-selling clamshell mobile in the world, they lost their touch when modern smartphones hit the industry in 2008.

Android and Apple quickly cashed on the market, and it wasn’t until 2018, where the foldable smartphone concept resurfaced. Today we see folding smartphones coming in all forms, styles, models, and brands.

Some of the most dominating names on the market include Royole Flexpai (October 2018), Galaxy Fold (February 2019), Huawei Mate X (February 2019), Motorola RAZR (November 2019), and TCL (March 2020). 

Many of us can’t help think, is it about time the foldable phone revolution becomes the next big thing? Let’s dig deep into how this industry has evolved over time to get a better understanding of this question.

The History of Foldable Phones

For many of us, the hype around the 2019 Samsung Galaxy Fold launch was the first time to hear about this new twist to the smartphone industry. However, the idea of ​​folding phones has been around for long enough.

Just like we have seen the basic concept of “Short Messaging Service” (also referred to as SMS) transform into the likes of Zoom and Slack to ViberWhatsApp and other alternatives, we’re witnessing the conventional mobile phone designs transform into something new and interesting.

In 2006, a company called Polymer Vision launched the Readius concept. More than an e-reader with calling capabilities, it would open to reveal a large-sized tablet-like screen, resembling pretty much the foldable smartphones of today. You could roll out its screen futuristically. It was quite ambitious for 2006, but couldn’t live up to the expectations in the long run.

From then on, a host of companies started making dual-screen “folding phones.” Some models offered split screens, dividing the screen into two halves to do different things. Some others offered the “extended mode”, where the two screens would combine, but with a big gap around their junction.

The fact of the matter is that those models weren’t true folding mobile phones. Instead, you can consider them as dual-screen phones featuring a tablet-sized display (marred with a noticeable gap in the middle). Nevertheless, still a step forward conceptually. 

First Generation Foldable Phones

It all changed with the introduction of foldable OLED screens in the smartphone industry. (And yes, they were named as “FOLED“.) OLED stands for Organic Light Emitting Diode. 

The first out of the gate was Royole Flexpai at the end of 2018. But was it worth the $1,300 price tag? Not so much. But if the aim was to beat others in rolling out a fully functioning foldable model, the target was achieved.

Galaxy Fold, the first Samsung foldable phone, was next in the queue. The media got their hands on the test units by early 2019, and feedback was not so great. At most, you can consider it as “too much too soon” by the Korean tech giant. It turned out way too fragile and delicate to not snap under the pressure of daily use.

So, the day before the planned April 2019 release, Fold’s debut was postponed without a time limit. Huawei Mate X, the famed Huawei foldable phone, also faced months’ delay in its release.

However, when they finally hit the market at the end of 2019, the durability of the two phones was greatly increased. But, by then, the public began questioning the wisdom of spending up to $ 2,000 on mobile phones with questionable longevity. And the phones did not come close to the projected sales figures.

Next stop, Motorola RAZR. While it rolled with many improvements in its durability in contrast to its predecessor, many weren’t still all that happy about it.

With RAZR’s processor speed, memory allocation, and camera performance, everything was under par. It could have worked fine if the price reflected this. At $ 1,500, of course not.

With COVID-19 becoming a global pandemic about the same time, this chapter of foldable smartphones didn’t end very well. It led many to believe that the era of foldable phones ended without riping.

The Next Generation of Foldable Phones

If you pay attention to the first quarter of 2020, there was a hint of foldable cell phones potentially making a comeback. Thanks to the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip.

While it shared a design similarity with RAZR, i.e., the flip, reviewers had many positive things to relate to it. Performance and endurance were more in line with the wishes of the media this time around. And the price label, too, while still staying in the flagship zone.

For those wishing to see more foldable screens, the good news is that this is a trend across the board.

With an enhanced camera set, Huawei Mate XS turned out faster and more durable than its predecessor. Samsung, meanwhile, makes a much-improved fold on the Galaxy Z Fold 2. Its 5G capabilities, the type of fit and finish that we expect from South Korean manufacturers, and better multitasking capabilities made it the best folding phone of the time.

After a while, Samsung also offered 5G updates to the Z flip, with Motorola also uplifting the RAZR with the same capabilities.

Where Are We Now?

All of it leads us to 2021 and the third generation of folding phones. By now, it is clear that the manufacturers are ready to take the foldable game to the next level. With major bugs out of sight, they can now focus on loading the phones with features that justify a high price tag, enticing users to choose them over the conventional ones.

Samsung has added iPX8 and 120Hz water-resistant displays to Z Flip3 and Z Fold3. A support pen and a screen protector adding up to 80% durability to the screen served as the cherry on top.

Huawei Mate X2 has a fantastic camera set. Finally, it switches to a folding screen inner, so you don’t say goodbye to thousands of dollars if you enter your key wrongly into the same pocket with your phone.

And TCL (yup, the TV guys) have launched the concept capable of folding into a phablet and rolling into a whole tablet. Sound familiar? Indeed, they have teased the crazy concept since the beginning of 2020. So, who knows whether we’ll see the phone that works as they claim at the end of the year? No matter what, it’s a pretty exciting thing.

Best Foldable Phones of 2021

Big names of the smartphone manufacturing industry, including Samsung, Huawei and Motorola, have perfected their manufacturing process, enhancing their hinge designs. Now, they’re busy rolling out newer folding models regularly, encouraging more people to buy one.

If you are on the market for one of the best folding phones, we showcase a list featuring top names and top choices so that you can make up your mind easily and confidently.

1. Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 5G

The best foldable phone you can buy.

SPECIFICATIONS 
Weight:271g
Dimensions:158.2 x 128.1 x 6.4mm (unfolded)
Screen size:7.6 inches (unfolded)
Resolution:1768 x 2208 pixels (unfolded)
CPU:Qualcomm Snapdragon 888
RAM:12GB
Storage:256/512GB
Battery:4,400 mAh
Rear camera:12 MP wide + 12 MP telephoto + 12 MP ultrawide
Front camera:10 MP, 10MP

2. Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 5G

The best clamshell foldable phone.

SPECIFICATIONS
Weight:183 g
Dimensions:72.2 x 166 x 6.9 mm (unfolded)
Screen size:6.7 inches (unfolded)
Resolution:1080 x 2640 pixels (unfolded)
CPU:Qualcomm Snapdragon 888
RAM:8GB
Storage:128/256GB
Battery:3,300 mAh
Rear camera:12 MP wide + 12 MP ultrawide
Front camera:10 MP

3. Motorola Razr

Another clamshell foldable phone you can consider.

SPECIFICATIONS 
Weight 183 g
Dimensions 72.2 x 166 x 6.9 mm (unfolded)
Screen size 6.7 inches (unfolded)
Resolution 1080 x 2640 pixels (unfolded)
CPU Qualcomm Snapdragon 888
RAM 8GB
Storage 128/256GB
Battery 3,300 mAh
Rear camera 12 MP wide + 12 MP ultrawide
Front camera 10 MP

4. Huawei Mate XS

A stunning foldable phone.

SPECIFICATIONS 
Weight 300 g
Dimensions 161.3 mm x 146.2 mm x 5.4 mm (unfolded)
Screen size 8 inches (unfolded)
Resolution 2200 x 2480 pixels (unfolded)
CPU Kirin 990
RAM 8GB
Storage 512GB
Battery 4,500 mAh
Rear camera 40 MP wide + 8 MP telephoto + 16 MP ultrawide + TOF 3D depth

5. LG Velvet

The best foldable phone that’s also a normal phone.

Weight 180 g
Dimensions 167.2 mm x 74.1 mm x 7.9 mm (unfolded)
Screen size 6.8 inches (unfolded)
Resolution 1080 x 2460 pixels (unfolded)
CPU Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G
RAM 6GB / 8GB
Storage 128GB
Battery 4,300 mAh
Rear camera 48 MP wide + 8 MP ultrawide + 5 MP depth
Front camera 16 MP

6. Xiaomi Mi Mix Fold

A powerful foldable phone with restricted availability.

SPECIFICATIONS 
Weight 317 g
Dimensions 173.3 mm x 133.4 mm x 7.6 mm (unfolded)
Screen size 8.01 inches (unfolded)
Resolution 1860 x 2480 pixels (unfolded)
CPU Qualcomm Snapdragon 888
RAM 12GB / 16GB
Storage 256GB / 512GB
Battery 5,020 mAh
Rear camera 108 MP wide + 8 MP telephoto/macro + 13 MP ultrawide
Front camera 20 MP wide

7. Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2

The last generation Fold is still worth considering.

SPECIFICATIONS 
Weight 282 g
Dimensions 159.2 mm x 128.2 mm x 6.9 mm (unfolded)
Screen size 7.6 inches (unfolded)
Resolution 1768 x 2208 pixels (unfolded)
CPU Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 Plus
RAM 12GB
Storage 256GB
Battery 4,500 mAh
Rear camera 12 MP wide + 12 MP telephoto + 12 MP ultrawide
Front camera 10 MP, 10MP

8. Microsoft Surface Duo 2

SPECIFICATIONS 
Weight 284 g
Dimensions 5.8-inch and 5.8-inch, 1,344 x 1,892 each
Screen size 5.8 inches
Resolution 2688 x 1892 pixels
CPU Snapdragon 888
RAM 8GB
Storage 128/256/512GB
Battery 4,449mAh
Rear camera 16, 12, and 12MP
Front camera 12MP

Bottomline

Big names of the smartphone manufacturing industry, including Samsung, Huawei and Motorola, have perfected their manufacturing process, enhancing their hinge design. Now, they’re busy rolling out newer folding models regularly, encouraging more people to buy one.

One thing is for sure, people perceive smartphones as the most convenient way of keeping in touch with people they love and care about. It will continue to evolve, just like the needs, wants and expectations of people who use it.

As we see the number of people interested in getting their hands on a foldable phone increase, we also see an increase in the number of people interested in breaking the shackles of conventional phone plans with long-term contracts.

Now more of them want to enjoy the freedom of communication by choosing the best calling apps and SIM-Only deals with no contracts over getting tied into long-term and expensive phone contracts.

One way or the other, change is inevitable, and the change foldable phones have introduced in the smartphone industry seems to have more good things about it than bad. And it seems to have all the ingredients in place to turn into the next big thing.

So, we should all keep our fingers crossed for the better.      

Foldable Phones FAQs

What is the best folding cellphone 2021?

If the question, which is the best folding phone, bothering you for some time, here’s the answer. The concept of foldable phones took rebirth in 2018. Things have improved considerably in just a few years since then. Presently, we can see folding smartphones available in various styles and forms.

Some prominent names of the current run of folding phones include Royole Flexpai (October 2018), Galaxy Fold (February 2019), Huawei Mate X (February 2019), Motorola Razr (November 2019), and TCL (March 2020).

However, most of the industry unanimously believes Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 5G to be the best overall.

Which is the cheapest folding phone?

The best folding phone will be what they can afford for most people. And the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 is most likely to turn into one, which eventually dropped the price below the $1,000 benchmark.

It is important to note here that as the asking price of a mobile phone increases, so do the expectations of people from it. And since the concept of folding phones is still far from maturity, most of the devices somehow come up short in fulfilling people’s expectations.

Are folding phones good?

The folding phone is indeed one step closer to what a geek or a nerd would fantasise the future of smartphones to be. No one can deny that this idea is irresistible.

But it is also a fact that the concept is far from maturity right now. From hinges of the folds to the bulkiness and even fragility, a handful of issues hinder the idea of folding phones from reaching their true potential.

To sum up, we may say, folding phones serve those who can afford them pretty well. And those who cannot afford one should wait a little more to see the technology further improve and the price depreciates further.

Do folding phones break easily?

We would say it’s more fragile than a phone of the same material and type featuring a simple and conventional design.

Anything that has a joint, has an additional point of failure. There is a limit to the number of folds you can do before it ruins. The point of failure if pressed too far the opposite way is another issue. Think about a laptop. It has the exact folding mechanism, but laptops don’t need to be folded straight like a phone, though.

How does the folding screen work?

The idea of ​​a folding screen is hard to believe because the smartphone screen comprises several layers usually. And most of the glass is not flexible. However, the folding screen is now possible because of technology that’s gone a bit old now. It is often called Flexible Display Technology, built around the OLED (OLED) light retrieval screen.

A typical OLED screen is made of organic material that emits light when electricity passes through it. They do not need a backlight to function, and as a result, they can be made relatively thin to the point where they become flexible, forming a flexible screen basis.

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