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How foldable smartphones hit the market

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When observing the new models of the folding line of the Samsung being released year after year, it gives us the impression that they are like other conventional smartphones. However, this is far from the truth. So, the question remains: how did foldable smartphones hit the market?

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The truth is that we had many ups and downs in this race, which was mainly between the South Korean manufacturer and Huawei. Even both launched their first devices at practically the same time.

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But what motivated the creation of cell phones with a foldable screen? Did consumers want that at the time? What is the purpose and appeal of having a foldable? Were they viable or even desirable? How did the process of building this new technology take place?

These are some points that were raised at the launch of the Galaxy Fold (first generation) and also the Huawei Mate X. Thus, I intend to discuss and present my opinion on the subject and what the future of this type of technology may be.

Was the Galaxy Fold a viable product?

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There’s no denying that, despite a delayed launch due to problems, the Galaxy Fold arrived “first”. That is, before the Huawei Mate X. However, could it achieve the company’s goal?

At first glance, it may not seem like it, as several product experts were concerned that the device did not have the robustness needed to face the real world when it debuted.

However, it must be taken into account that the Fold was the first of its kind, that is, problems were, to some extent, expected, being the first generation.

Still, as we see today, the path he paved seems to have borne fruit, as we see the Galaxy Z line with annual releases.

However, where did the need to create a foldable device come from? So far, we don’t see a real need to fold smartphones.

(Image: Business Insider)

Perhaps, what Samsung has as a product vision is to create a device that, over time, will replace even notebooks and tablets, centralizing everything only on the cell phone.

But what may have motivated the manufacturer is the desire of consumers to have larger and larger screens. However, this begins to create certain inconveniences in everyday life. Starting with transport, some models are already uncomfortable to keep in your pocket or leave on tables.

So, to increase this screen, without compromising usability, we went for a folding device, which offers a differentiated immersion, but manages to be practical to carry, in addition to protecting the main screen when closing.

She even drew inspiration from other objects that we use and fold in everyday life, such as books, wallets, papers. And she was inspired by that to design a product that mimics that practicality.

The Galaxy Fold spent years in development

The truth is, the Galaxy Fold was not an idea to be realized overnight. It has been in development for several years, almost a decade. Until it had the technology needed to make it viable for the company.

This required lots and lots of testing, and hypotheses to be tested, until you got to the first generation. The South Korean itself even developed 1,000 testing prototypes.

Everything to balance the assembly, creation of parts and final price for the consumer. Another challenge was to make the software desirable and applicable, in terms of UX (user experience).

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1661606521 18 How foldable smartphones hit the market
(Image: Daniel Romero/ Unsplash)

After all, it made no sense to launch a cell phone that was not practical and that the common public could use. So, it took more years of work to find the sweet spot that also made good use of the new hardware.

We can see that the Galaxy Z line, in which we have the Z Fold and Z Flip, may not be for all consumers. However, it is undeniable that it has brought news and innovation to a stagnant market for some time. While almost all manufacturers only launch larger phones, but always with the same design, Samsung is on the way to creating alternatives to this already quite worn out concept.

In the future, we can expect new devices and products, including software, that will bring new possibilities and functionality to the consumer’s daily life. And then yes, we may have a big leap in the need for foldable devices, which, for now, are reserved for technology enthusiasts.

Motorola also ventured into the foldable race

Among many other manufacturers, we can also mention Motorola, which launched the Razr 2019 in 2019. It came a little before the Galaxy Z Flip and already had the proposal to be a compact folding, instead of a tablet.

This model bet a lot on nostalgia, as its design was very reminiscent of the late Motorola V3. This made many look at the foldable with high expectations.

1661606521 283 How foldable smartphones hit the market
The 2019 Razr had a very nostalgic and functional design (Image: Canaltech)

Even more so because it brought a different folding mechanism, which does not leave noticeable creases on the screen when opened. A problem that Samsung faces to this day in its Z-line devices.

However, due to a choice of weak hardware, mid-range processor and camera without great technologies, the Razr ended up not earning so many comments. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t a bestseller.

Here in Brazil, he had zero stock as soon as he arrived. But, like the competitors, it was still a somewhat experimental model. So it presented some problems and did not have a well-defined proposal.

The third generation of Motorola’s foldable, which arrived in 2022, is expected to be sold only in China, and should not arrive in Brazil.

Huawei has brought a different proposal for foldables

However, we cannot forget that the Chinese manufacturer Huawei was also in this race from an early age. Although it arrived “later”, it didn’t make much of a fuss at the launch of the Mate X.

Still, it’s not a device we’ve heard of, like the Galaxy Fold. Perhaps this was due to the fact that it was an exclusive device for the Chinese market. While Samsung maintained its worldwide launch strategy.

Unlike the Galaxy Fold, the Mate X has made a mechanism that we can use half of the main screen, when the phone is folded, and when we open it, we can use the full display.

How foldable smartphones hit the market
(Image: Raymond Wong/Mashable)

In this way, it is possible to use the folded device with more ergonomics than the first generation Fold, which had a very narrow 4-inch external screen. This forced you to open the internal screen frequently to be able to interact with notifications and send messages in a comfortable way.

Another differential was the choice of screen, which in the Huawei Mate X we have glass, whereas in the South Korean device, plastic was used. You can see how the first Galaxy Fold was almost a prototype, as it still had several questionable and weak points compared to competitors.

Another example is the notch with cameras on the inside, the Fold lost a good portion of the display to house the three cameras. In this sense, Huawei thought better of usability and left the main cameras on the outside, but which could still be accessed to take selfies.

So, you could take pictures with the best sensors on the device, and even with a preview of the photo, thanks to the folded screen. Plus it doesn’t compromise the display with coarse notch.

Are foldables really worth it?

In short, they are still somewhat experimental models, although Samsung’s Z line seems more established and with more complete products, it may be a little early to say that we will in fact have no problems. But that are generating fruits and insights of what the consumer would like to have and, over time, we should see new models with more appeal.

It is even expected that these new products will be much better finished and built, as we now have greater security to invest, as we have several successful cases, such as the Z Flip 3. In this way, we can say that the Foldable smartphones are finding their way into the market and promise to grow a lot.

Also, the question remains, why do we need foldable cell phones? Maybe you like big screens, or want to take advantage of some camera features, for selfies and shooting from different angles.

The point is that these products may still be finding their way into the smartphone market. And we will still see several attempts until they become increasingly viable, both for consumers and for manufacturers, as was the process with the first smartphones with touchscreen and that today we have several options in all price ranges.

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