/Foldable Smartphones: Sensible or Senseless?

Foldable Smartphones: Sensible or Senseless?

Foldable smartphone
The game has just begun! A game that will dawn into a new era of smartphone and its evolution over the years to reach at a stage when we can literally see the innovations happening and taking shapes and sizes. Right now, it evolves to come into a foldable format with multiple displays. Yes, Foldable Smartphones!

They are no more just a concept but, has actually made way into our lives and to begin the journey of a completely new era as the technology giants such as Samsung and Huawei have announced their foldable smartphones. The South Korean Electronics major, Samsung, will be credited the first smartphone maker to announce its foldable smartphone just couple of weeks ago in San Francisco, United States. Samsung has launched the first foldable smartphone called the Samsung Galaxy Fold priced anywhere between one and half lakh Indian rupees or nearly USD 2,000. Similarly, the Chinese giant, Huawei, too has announced its foldable smartphone at Mobile World Congress 2019 or MWC, Barcelona, Spain called Huawei Mate X which may sell around USD 2,600.

The Apple aspirants will have to wait for their turn as the Cupertino-based trillion dollar company has also applied for the patent of a foldable device at the US Patent and Trademark office but, will have to wait till 2020 before anything comes out of its stable. Reports also suggest that Oppo is also working to bring its own foldable smartphone but it’s not official yet.

Game Changer?

Upasana Joshi, IDC INDIA

“At a time when global smartphone market is in a distress, companies have come out with concept devices like foldable phones to excite consumers which are aimed less at driving overall sales but are meant for showcasing technologies and a roadmap to futuristic devices,”

Upasana Joshi, Associate Research Manager, Channel Research, IDC India.

However, the use cases of these foldable smartphones are hugely debated and should have been especially when the tablet market across boundaries are going downhill and is in shambles. A normal human being can also look into one screen at a time so what’s the use of multi-screen and foldable display?

Faisal Kawoosa

“Well indeed this solves one of the major hardware limitations of screen, which will open up new use cases. I wouldn’t however, call it a game changer. It will neither expand the market nor increase the growth of the smartphone sales substantially,”

Faisal Kawoosa, Founder and Chief Analyst at techARC.

foldable smartphone

He has a valid point that this will neither expand the market nor increase the growth of the smartphone sales substantially. When we see it in the perspective of Indian buyers there’s a very niche market or buyers of these innovations to make it a success here and the same goes for the world too. When we already have such brilliant screens available in single format why would anyone be interested in buying a foldable smartphone with multiple displays. What purpose does it solve? It will only add to the glam quotient per say. On the contrary, this is indeed a technological advancement that needs to be cherished. It has solved major hardware limitations of a screen and makes us to realize as how elaborate it can go. It has certainly helped in breaking the odds and challenging the monotony of screen. Didn’t we were happy and excited when we first see convertible, rotating laptops? Similarly, the foldable smartphones will open gates for the thinkers and challengers to invest more into R&D.

Convenience

The Foldable smartphones will come with challenges too. Size being one of them. When we conceptualize it in the real world around us it won’t make any sense because most of them will be on heavier side which makes it uneasy to carry around during our routine work.

“It is again a converged/convertible category of innovation. Unfortunately, in case of laptops-tablets we did not see much of traction. However, in this case, foldable overlaps between the tablet and a smartphone so, it brings a lot of convenience and people won’t have to carry two devices one for portability another for content consumption, especially for bigger screen usage,” says Faisal.

samsung foldable smartphones

The surge in the online consumption and subscription based content watching such as Netflix, Amazon, etc. could also prove to be a vital set of audience for foldable smartphones. The urban India earns handsomely and knows where and how to spend lavishly on high-end premium smartphones that makes them an attractant in crowd. The millennial largely depends on their smartphone for majority of tasks; be it content consumption, sending mails, preparing spreadsheet, listening music, texts, etc. The usages of laptop and desktop have gone down drastically over the years and the kind of specifications and functionalities a smartphone has to offer is no different from a PC or a laptop. Therefore, foldable smartphones are future for them. They do not have to switch between a smartphone, tablet or a laptop. They can use as much space on the display as per the need of it. So, it makes sense.

Challenges

There’s no denying that these foldable smartphones will remain niche concept and could be afforded by a very few. Not only this, the foldable smartphones will also eat into the tablet market as well as the laptop which are already down.

“It will further hit the already declining Tablet market, rather than increasing sales of smartphones. I would see it hitting Surface and iPad especially as the price points would match the user profile there,” said Faisal.

The premium smartphone range would not get affected by the foldable smartphones. They do not have any differentiating factor other than just adding to the number of displays. Buyers will stick to their respective brand in this genre as this concept is still evolving and will take some time to bring down the prices and the acceptability.

Upasana further elaborates that, “With consumers holding their premium phones for 2+ years now, due to their superior build coupled with lack of differentiating innovations in the newer range, it is still doubtful that whether these hardware innovations (like foldable phones) be enough to create a disruption especially in a price conscious India market (More than 80% market in below $200).”

The larger worry lies in the clear use cases of these devices to the consumers along with the steep pricing which lets the consumer hold previous generation devices for a longer time, she adds.

In a country like India, foldable smartphones will have a daunting task ahead. With the advent of 5G and more income at hand people might opt for these futuristic ideas but the challenges remain. The buyers of the premium smartphones might remain contended with what they have at their disposal.

Conclusion

The foldable smartphones may not be that viable and financially successful for their makers but, has stirred the Hornets’ nest which was much needed indeed. Foldable smartphone can replace tablets and that’s good for the business as the companies may not think more on making tablets when the sales are down and out. The large screen smartphones have almost replaced tablets from the scene. There might not be many takers but it has created disruption in the display market opening new gates for the developers, suppliers and think tank at R&D level.

The display market hasn’t evolved that much with the pace of smartphone growth. We have only seen Corning Gorilla for the protection, IPS LCD, OLED, AMOLED and Super AMOLED, etc. but, nothing concrete has happened over the years. The engineers have done a remarkable job in creating foldable smartphones having multiple displays. They have made the impossible possible by overcoming this design and hardware barrier.

Foldable smartphones makers must have thought hard that’s why they have invested so much on these futuristic devices. Samsung and Huawei have begun the race and there are quite a few wanting to join the league such as Apple and Oppo. Each one of them has premium and luxury smartphones as well as mid-range and budget but the foldable smartphones may prove to be a milestone in their journey.

oppo foldable smartphones

This is very early stage of foldable smartphones. Today, they are bulkier, heavier, consume battery and are too unfit for today’s generation of narrow jeans in which these smartphones will seldom fit. If 2019 is the year of advent of foldable smartphones then who knows we might soon get to see flexible smartphones. There are companies working on some futuristic ideas such as Motorola and Nokia apart from the earlier trendsetters like Samsung, Huawei, Apple and Oppo.

Having said that, these foldable smartphones are yet to make its entry into Indian shores but they have got the bell ringing. The price and portability could be the deciding factors for people opting for foldable smartphones. It will certainly take the market to a completely different level of competition. A lot needs to be done before they can actually make it to the masses. Premium smartphones such as Galaxy S10 and Huawei P30 are brilliant crafted ones and no less than these foldable smartphones. It will take time for the buyers to get out of their comfort zone and experience something which they had never done before.

Haider is an active writer in technology who loves to dwell deeper into new innovations. He holds a degree in English Journalism from the prestigious Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC). Besides that he likes to travel and explore new places.

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