The era of foldable phones

The trend on smartphones is an ever moving tide. Just a few years ago, the course was to have bigger and bigger displays, larger memories, stronger batteries and even better cameras. Now the era has come for foldable display and everyone is talking about it.

Flexi Pai Foldable phone
Royole FlexiPai foldable phone

After years of rumours and leaks, foldable phones are finally here. A Chinese Smartphone manufacturer Royole Corporation launched FlexPai, the world’s first commercially available foldable phone in Oct. 31, 2018 in Beijing. The company launched a global version of the phone in July 2019 ahead of tech giants like Samsung, Huawei and Motorola (all of which have been working on their own foldable phones).

Flexi-pai is a combination of mobile phone and tablet. The phone’s 7.8-inch screen can be used either folded or unfolded, giving it the portability of a smartphone plus the screen size of a high-definition tablet.

Galaxy Fold

Galaxy Fold
Samsung Galaxy Fold

Samsung launched Galaxy Fold in September 2019.  The phone has a 7.3 inch foldable display, a high-end processor, 12GB of RAM, and 512GB of storage. The rear camera has triple-lens 16MP+12MP+12MP, and a 4,380mAh battery split up into two sections of the fold.

There are two screens; the first is what you see when you hold the phone folded up. It’s a small, 4.6-inch screen (1680 × 720 pixels). Open the Fold up like a book, and you’re greeted to a wide tablet-like 7.3-inch AMOLED screen with a QXGA+ resolution (2152 × 1536 pixels).

Samsung Galaxy Fold price starts around $2,200 on Amazon, about N890,000 in Nigeria.

Huawei Mate X

The Huawei Mate X was unveiled at Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2019. The phone is powered by 1.8GHz octa-core HiSilicon Kirin 980 processor that features 2 cores clocked at 2.6GHz, 2 cores clocked at 1.92GHz and 4 cores clocked at 1.8GHz processor. It has 8 GB RAM and 512 GB internal storage.

Huawei Mate X Foldable phone
Huawei Mate X

The 8.-inch touchscreen display with a resolution of 2200×2480 pixels folds outward unlike the galaxy Fold that folds inward. The Mate X is designed to work as a productivity device. The unfolded Mate X provides a sophisticated experience that looks like you’re using a tablet, but it’s much lighter than a tablet.

Mate X is pricier than the Galaxy Fold, selling at $2,600 on Amazon and almost a million naira in Nigeria.

Motorola Razr

Motorola also unveiled its premier foldable phone last year, the Razr. This is based on the original 2004 device (which gained an iconic status for its sleek design, thin profile and various color options at the time), the 2019 Razr has a nostalgia-inducing “flip” phone design, a 6.2-inch screen, Android 9 Pie OS, a 16-megapixel camera and a fingerprint reader. 

Motorola Razr Foldable phone
Motorola Razr 2019

How foldable phones work

Foldable phones have flexible OLED polymer screen manufactured on thin plastic instead of glass.

Organic Light Emitting Diode (OLED) displays work by pulsing electricity through a mesh of organic compounds. They are extremely thin, flexible, and vivid. They don’t require a backlight, and they can produce bolder colors than thick LED displays.

In 2018, Google announced that Android would support foldable phones. Android will be able to transform and adjust the user interface based on the foldable device’s orientation.

Android Screen Continuity

Android’s Screen Continuity is the feature by which an app could smoothly and seamlessly transform to and fro the different screen sizes.

The mobile OS developer has more information on the optimization required for foldable phones:

“When folded, foldables look like phones, fitting in your pocket or purse. When unfolded, their defining feature is what we call screen continuity. For example, start a video with the folded smaller screen – and later you can sit down and unfold the device to get a larger tablet-sized screen for a beautiful, immersive experience. As you unfold, the app seamlessly transfers to the bigger screen without missing a beat. We’re optimizing Android for this new form factor. And, making changes to help developers everywhere take advantage of the possibilities this creates for amazing new experiences, new ways to engage and delight your users”.

– AndroidDevelopers

The Future

The latest foldable phone on the market is the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip. Despite having seen three foldable smartphones, the market for such devices is expected to take at least half a decade to bloom and one of its major drawbacks is the high cost of buying this new gadget. As more tech developers unveil their foldable devices, prices will crash in the long run.

The future of phones with flexible displays look promising. Other smartphone manufacturers are developing foldable screen as far as the war on flexible display goes. There are still some new innovations in the foldable phone market that are being worked on. Only time will tell which one will turn out to be the most successful.

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