New Delhi: Announced during the last week of February, foldable smartphones have caught the attention of many. The Samsung Galaxy Fold and Huawei Mate X have indeed made smartphones hot again. Both have large screens that measure above 7-inch and fold right in the middle, providing users access to a much larger screen. Yet, there are concerns about this new form factor, ranging from durability to the impact on user experience. Reports with photos of a crease running down the middle of the Galaxy Fold’s screen have also cast aspersions on foldable phones. However, the crease was not visible in the official promos of the phone.
Wear and tear: Experts believe folding/unfolding of the screen will lead to more wear and tear resulting in a shorter life-cycle, compelling users to upgrade to new phones more frequently. “The polymers of flexible displays would eventually wear out from a lot of folding and unfolding. This, in turn, could cut short the long upgrade cycles that the market is witnessing currently,” points out Prabhu Ram, head, industry intelligence group, CyberMedia Research.
User experience: Experts also feel there are some caveats from the user experience (UX) perspective. Both Galaxy Fold and Mate X seem to be using the same user interface as their single screen counterparts such as Galaxy S10. “The biggest UX consideration with foldable phones will be the screen ratio. It will be interesting to see how designers and developers handle the difference in screen ratio here. As of now, UX on foldable phones seems like a vague concept with no concrete answers,” says Sufyan bin Uzayr, director at Parakozm, a software development and UI/UX design startup. For example, the aspect ratio of 4.2:3 in some foldable screen phones, is not in unison with the commonly used 16:9 and 18:9 ratio, which may result in wide spaces in some apps.
Weight: Experts also opine that foldable phones in their current form are too big and heavy for a smartphone and too small for a tablet they could use for work. A case in point is the Galaxy Fold, which reportedly weighs about 298gm. In comparison, single screen phones like Galaxy S10 plus, which has a 6.4-inch screen, weighs just 175gm. Pavel Naiya, senior analyst, devices and ecosystem at Counterpoint Research, cautions that larger display will also need a larger battery and this will also increase the thickness of the device. Samsung Fold uses two batteries, for instance. Ram feels the first crop of foldable phones is evidently thick and won’t fit into the pocket easily.
Cost: Having two screens will also drive up the cost of the device as is evident in case of Galaxy Fold. It starts at $1,980 and is one of the most premium smartphones launched in recent times. Display is a major component in any smartphone and accounts for 20-30% of the bill of materials cost. Higher display prices will affect the overall cost of the smartphone too, says Naiya.
External protection: In phones such as the Huawei Mate X, which has a foldable display that opens outward, there will be damage to the screen no matter how it falls. The presence of screens on either side will also prevent users from adding a case or cover for protection.