OPINION: Recent rumours about upcoming foldable phones give us cause for optimism that a long-term problem could finally be fixed.
We’re still in the early days of folding-screen smartphones, with the first of them having been unveiled in 2022, and they remain a novelty for us at this point in time.
Few of us have had the chance to get close and personal with such a device, as they’re not exactly top-sellers, and as such they still give the impression of being at the bleeding edge of phone hardware. Perhaps for this reason, we’re more forgiving of potential pitfalls.
In the very earliest days there were a few obvious flaws with such handsets, especially concerning the robustness of the inner screen and hinge, as well as the under-optimised software for the daring new form factor, but these problems do appear to have been significantly improved upon in recent years. However one pinch point does remain, at least for clamshell format phones, and that’s the stingy size of the outer screens.
In our reviews of both theand the we’ve noted this issue; in my experience with the latter, it became increasingly grating the more I used the phone. To begin with, I was enraptured by the novelty and charm that this style undoubtedly delivers over its peers, but above all this design really did make me aware of how often I look at my phone screen.
Usually it’s no trouble at all to slide my phone out of my pocket and quickly scroll and swipe, but the added step of having to wrench it open with your thumb every time made this a bit more of a chore than I’d have liked (even though it may have been a good method of aversion therapy to treat my screen addiction).
While we noted some tentative improvement on this score from the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4, it’s still far from being perfect, with Max Parker writing that “the best you can do is skip songs or check on a timer. You’ll still be opening up the phone a lot.”
However, this week saw two good news stories on this score, one from Oppo and one from Samsung. Though still rumours, they do seem to indicate that manufacturers are working to tackle this potential pain point.
. his clamshell phone which could prove to be a direct rival to the Galaxy Z Flip 4, but there’s one key detail that stood above the others in this admittedly unclear piece of evidence; the external part of the phone has a significantly larger, vertically orientated display. This potentially means you’ll be able to perform far more interactions than previously, making it a much more useful device even when it’s snapped shut.
The second story concerned Samsung’s next Galaxy Z Flip handset., the next entry in the series will have a screen measuring at least 3 inches. Again, that’s a significant improvement on the previous edition, raising the prospect of being able to do more than just check the time and see a few notifications when the phone is in its unfolded form.
Now, obviously we’re going to have to try out these phones to see if the rumoured design changes really are the gamechanger we’re hoping for, but the initial signs do seem to be positive. This could be one of the final ingredients that allow clamshell foldables to be more than just a cutesy way to stand out from the pack, and to instead give them an efficiency advantage over standard smartphones.
Hopefully, next year will open up with a fresh start for folding phones.