Brief history of foldable phones
Foldable phones may stir nostalgic feelings for the flip phones of the late 90s and early 2000s. The Motorola StarTAC, released in 1996, became known as the first ever flip phone (also known as a clamshell phone at the time). It was announced last year that they were launching the Motorola Razr V4, which features a foldable display screen.
Fascinated by this resurgence of the past? Learn more about the history of mobile phones.
What do you mean by foldable?
A flip phone featured a mechanism which allowed two separate pieces of metal to close on each other, effectively snapping shut to hide the screen and keys. Foldable phones, however, are less snappy and more bendy.
They are large, almost phablet-like phones that can curve and bend.
Some of these foldable phones have dual screens, meaning there are two separate display screens joined to each other that can fold in like closing a book. Other foldable phones feature one bendy screen.
How does it work?
You might be wondering how this works, as bending your smartphone would usually break it. Foldable phones are built with many types of technological features that allow their display to bend, such as a flexible OLED screen, polymer screens in place of glass (as they are more flexible and non-flammable) and a jointed case.
OLED displays are brighter, clearer, and more colourful than the traditional LED backgrounds of older phones. They are flexible and thin, and are able to bend and curve. However, the reason foldable phones weren’t built earlier is because companies needed to learn how to make the interior of a phone flexible too.
Motorola and Samsung must have figured this out, as they have released their foldable phones: the Razr V4 and the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip, respectively.
Problems with foldable phones
This new technology is still being worked on and developed by manufacturers, but like with all tech, it can come with its problems.
Firstly, because they need to have larger screens to manipulate and bend, they also need higher power batteries to keep the screen lit.
There are a few other reported issues with the screens, like the fact that they’re plastic. Glass won’t bend of course, so the display screen has to be made out of plastic. Just because plastic can’t crack or break when dropped doesn’t mean it won’t get damaged with scratches. Plastic is also not as reactive to touch sensitivity, does not reflect the screen as well as glass, and doesn’t feel as nice to hold as the smoothness of glass. It’ll also be harder to find screen protectors for foldable phones.
Phone cases will also have to be made out of a material that can cope with being bent. That means saying goodbye to metal or rubber, which are typically what the stronger types of cases are made from.
Due to the technology required to make these phones functional whilst also allowing them to bend in this way, they will typically retail at around £1,000. As they become commonplace, foldable phones will decrease in price, and many of these issues may have been fixed and resolved over several years of revision, so if you’re really interested in a blast from the past, it might be beneficial to wait a few years.
Best Foldable Phones
If you do want to purchase a foldable phone now, here’s a list of some of the best ones in 2020:
- Motorola Razr 4V - 6.2 inch display, approximately £1100
- Samsung Galaxy Z Flip - 6.7 inch display, approximately £970
- Samsung Galaxy Fold - 7.3 inch display, approximately £1100
- Huawei Mate X - 6.6 inch and 6.38 inch display, approximately £1000
- Royole FlexPai - 7.8 inch display, approximately £970
- ZTE Axon M - 5.2 inch display, approximately £370
- LG G8X ThinQ Dual Screen - 6.4 inch display, approximately £500
More and more foldable smartphones and phablets are being announced every few months, so keep your eye out for updates from Microsoft, Oppo, Sony and Apple in the future.
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