Let’s face it, cell phones, even the best, aren’t so exciting anymore. They’re all way more powerful than we really need, they all have nifty multi-lens cameras, and they all basically look the same. I really hoped that the foldable phones would give the industry a much needed dose of adrenaline, but well over a year after they arrived, they died out like wet fireworks and left me disappointed.
I have worked for CNET for a decade and most of the time I have specifically covered mobile phones. I saw a lot of things come and go. I’ve seen the rise and fall of BlackBerrys, I’ve seen weird phone ideas like Russianand I saw the brief trend of curved phones like the and . But in recent years it seems that real innovation has been sidelined, with every company clamoring to make what could easily be revisions of the same product.
Think about these phrases: “A big, vibrant screen”, “An excellent multi-rear camera setup”, “An attractive design in metal and glass”. Can you think of many phones that these feelings might not apply to? The upshot is that all phones are pretty good, but that means they’re boring too. The refresh each year adds a few megapixels to the camera, or a little more screen size. Or a slight tweak to a design that basically remains just a rectangular slab.
I understand. Innovation is expensive, and spending millions of dollars researching a new idea means you need a guarantee that it will sell well. LG has discovered this at its cost with phones like, which did not sell well and now the company is reportedly looking to .
So when foldable phones arrived, my spirits picked up. This was the innovation. Here is this new technology that really took me back when I first saw it in person and once again got me excited about the possibilities of what phones could become. I know I’m not the only one who liked this idea of the phone that you wear on your wrist like a watch and unfold when you need a bigger screen. But where is it?
The foldables we have are … very good. Theand The clamshell design is neat in that it makes a big screen phone more sticky by folding it in half, while the and are basically tablets that fold in half to become phones, which is good too.
But beyond the bending screen, they haven’t really pushed the boundaries. They haven’t changed the way we use our phones or brought about a revolution so revolutionary that it completely changes the face of mobile. They use the same version of Android, with only a few small changes made to some apps to give a little extra functionality, but little beyond. Really, it’s the same phone as before, but you can fold them in half. I find it very telling that I have the Galaxy Fold and Z Flip in my house, but they’re in a drawer among other old phones and I don’t really want to take them out again.
And you pay generously for this unique feature, as all foldable phones cost significantly more than regular flagships from their respective manufacturers. This, in turn, means that the adoption is low, which hardly prompts these companies – or third-party developers – to think about new creative ways to use this technology. Over time, foldable phones might just be thrown into the pile of other gadgets, alongside banana phones,and .
But I hope not. Hope it stays and evolves into something useful and exciting. Frankly, I hope Apple takes the cause because it tends to only embrace new technology when it can make a truly useful use of it, but maybe not always ().
Most importantly, I hope any mobile phone company isn’t afraid to try to innovate and do something a little different. Phones were fun and the phone launch events were really exciting to see what awesome new technology was unveiled this time around.
This excitement is no longer where it was. It’s an embers glistening at the bottom of the fireplace now, each generic phone throw threatening to be the bucket of sand that could put it out completely. There’s a chance that foldable phones could still be the kindling that turns that embers into a roaring inferno, but I’m not crossing my fingers.