The last time I got excited about a foldable phone, it was the Motorola Razr. It felt like the future. He had a big screen. You can close it with a satisfying touch. And the It was within everyone’s reach. Sadly, the actual future appeared a few years later in the form of the iPhone, rendering obsolete everything that came before.
Since then, the industry has pushed smartphones to the brink of nothingness, molding them into increasingly nondescript rounded rectangles. Devoid of personality, these blocks without magic rule our lives, and make cartoonists’ lives hell, because many activities – listening to music; reading a book watching TV; the shopping; Call someone – now looks identical.
Everyone is looking for the next step. Those at the cutting edge of technology — and the most they’re willing to pay for a phone — swear by foldable phones. But rather than echoing the Razr, foldable phones start out as a chunky version of the nondescript rounded rectangle mentioned above. and unfold into … larger, square, nondescript, circular rectangles.
There are now enough of these that my colleagues here are using things You feel duty bound to compile a list of the best foldable phones. And the news — well, the rumors — arrived this week that Google is quite likely to launch the long-awaited Google Pixel Fold early next year. Probably. So there will be another high-end foldable phone. At least if YouTuber Jon Prosser and his gossip are to be believed.
I should be happy about this. After all, I recently argued that the next iPhone I wanted was a device that would render all my other devices obsolete. Foldable phones already have a tablet-like display mode. And if Android manufacturers integrate desktop modes as well, they will act like a computer when connected to a monitor. (They are certainly powerful enough). I’m also a big fan of Google hardware, because it comes with Google software, and it’s stripped of the raw stuff that’s stuck on a lot of other Android devices. So: cool?
Not right. I’m unconvinced and increasingly wondering if we’ll look back in ten years on foldable phones with the same wide eyes as “what were they thinking?” An expression we reserve today for a great deal of what Nokia came out once. This will be due to a number of reasons.
Foldable phones are laughably expensive, for a start. (It is expected that the Google Pixel Fold beginning At $1,799.) They’ve historically been heavier but crisper than their non-folding counterparts, with the screen being particularly exposed. And the screen has a crease. People with foldable phones tell me they barely notice the crease after a while. But I remember that the iPhone I once owned had a small, barely perceptible fingernail scratch on it — and that drove me to distraction. A vertical equivalent under the entire screen wouldn’t be a good thing. Also, Google’s upcoming blower is said to be annoyingly heavy.
Finally, I’m still skeptical that Google cares enough about tablet apps to make a meaningful difference in this area. And that’s what a foldable phone is when opened up: a tablet. One with a strange aspect ratio, but it’s still a tablet. If there aren’t many great tablet apps, what’s the point? It’s not like it would be fun to watch TV on a box.
So I’m not sure what’s next for the phones nor what it should be. And as someone with a bad form of forecasting—I once suggested the original iPod would be a terrible flop—I’m not going to make one here. What I will say is that it’s a strange lack of imagination to argue that the next big thing is a humble tablet experience that you can fold in half to leave yourself carrying an overweight, bulky phone.
Feel free to come back a decade later and tell me whether or not I was right.
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