On Foldable Phones

Posted by Matt Birchler
— 1 min read

We’ve seen a bunch of companies unveil their foldable phones over the past week and I will be getting precisely zero of them. On the one hand, I have no place for one of these in my life right now. On the other hand, I also don’t have $2,000+ I’;m looking to drop on a single Android phone, like…ever.

Of the models shown so far, I think Huawei Mate X looks the best, and looks to be the most palatable version of the foldable form factor we’ve seen yet. But even that one looks pretty rough compared to what normal smartphones look like today.

But all that said, I’m very excited about this tech getting into real products people can actually pay money for and use. These are not concept devices, they’re consumer products that will sell very poorly, but will at least be in the world. This means two things.

First, this means that these companies will get feedback from users on what works and what doesn’t with this foldable design. It will help them understand what way the device should fold. It will help them understand what tasks people like to get done on the larger screen. As they learn what their customers like, they will be able to work in a specific direction to make the experience better and appeal to more people.

Second, the fact this tech is making its way to consumer products at all is a huge hurdle to cross. Again, it will be a very small number of people who get one of these, but the fact that companies like Samsung can get this tech into shipping products is a big deal. If the first models come out in 2019, then we very well may be just 2-4 years from really good versions of this coming from other manufacturers.

I say all this because I think it’s important to get excited about this sort of technological advancement. I know some people have a “if it’s not ready for Apple, then it’s not ready period” attitude towards tech, and I find that attitude very tiresome. It leads to simply mocking everything anyone else does, and then backtracking when Apple adopts that same tech soon after. See big phones. See the notch. See wireless charging. You get it.