Are foldable smartphones gimmicky gadgets or a lasting trend?:

·3-min read
The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip3

Since their appearance on the market in 2019, smartphones with a foldable screen have been having a wow effect on consumers, and many of them have been sold on the novelty of the design, but their production and prices make them a niche market for a wealthy clientele. Whether or not they see success in the future with the general public will depend on a decrease in prices and larger adoption of the new uses they enable.

With few manufacturers making them, sales still very low, existing models' high price tags and limited new uses, foldable smartphones' main appeal is in their novelty and as such they have not yet been embraced by the consumer at large.

A fast-growing market

It was in 2019 that the first models of the kind appeared, notably the iconic Huawei Mate X and Samsung Galaxy Fold. While they made a lot of headlines, to this date they represent more a technological showcase for brands than a real source of revenue.

Of all the manufacturers involved, Samsung is increasingly the face of the style, putting a lot of energy into such products. This summer, it is presenting the Galaxy Z Flip3 and Fold3, available from US$1000 and $1800 respectively. Thanks to a slight price cut and a lot of advertising, the South Korean manufacturer is already pleased with the success of pre-orders for its two models, without giving any figures. The South Korean media nevertheless mention twice as many pre-orders as the Galaxy S21, released earlier this year. This would also represent almost 10 times more pre-orders than for the Galaxy Z Fold2 a year ago.

This "success" could therefore mark the beginning of a popularization of this type of smartphone. However, specific, convincing uses will have to be proposed for the general public to switch from a "classic" smartphone to one with a foldable screen.

What it can be used for - key to the success

Coming up with new uses that go with these foldable screens -- instead of just promoting it as carrying the equivalent of a small tablet in your pocket, as is the case with the first foldable screen phones released -- is the major determining factor to whether they take root or not. Less expensive, foldable screen smartphones with clamshells have some important advantages in addition to their price.

This type of design, launched by Motorola with the Razr and continuing today with the Galaxy Z Flip3 from Samsung, fits easily in the pocket, folded in two. Its hinge, designed to stay open, allows you to take a selfie, for example, but also to record video, since you can film yourself while keeping your hands free. The same goes for video conferences, where the device can be placed on the table while you go about your business.

Another advantage of this type of device is that its format is perfectly suited to multitasking. This means that users can, for example, watch a video on the upper part of the screen while taking notes on the lower part, or vice versa.

David Bénard

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