Are These Foldable Phones the Future of Work?
Don Crawley once worked for celebrities; he was one of Kanye West’s managers. Now he makes clothing that’s worn by celebrities — LeBron James, Big Sean, and The Weeknd all don his apparel, which is called Just Don. Ask Crawley how he’s done it and he says a big part is efficiency: He is constantly multitasking and runs every aspect of his business from his phone.
That’s why he was excited to try the new crop of foldable phones and embraced the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold2 5G. (Crawley appeared in a Samsung promotional video but is not affiliated with the company.) The way he sees it, more screen space means he can work faster. “I can open a separate window to access presentations or PDFs, or answer an email, at the same time,” he says.
As foldable phones begin entering the market in force, with Samsung and many competitors debuting devices this fall, entrepreneurs may wonder: Do we need a new type of smartphone? And they’d be reasonably put off by the technology’s recent past. When Samsung debuted the concept last year, some of its phones cracked and the product had to be rereleased.
But now, industry experts say, there’s a greater case to be made. Foldable phones are a midway point between a phone and a laptop or a tablet — still small enough to carry but with the ability to handle complex tasks. You can answer a quick text on the front screen, then open the phone to view charts or create presentations. “There’s more screen real estate, and there’s the convenience of running two apps side by side,” says technology analyst Ross Rubin at Reticle Research.
As with most new tech, early adopters will pay a hefty entrance fee. The Fold2 costs $2,000, which could buy you a new tablet and a laptop. And by the time the cost comes down, it could be undercut by an even more convenient mobile technology. “I believe smart glasses are on the horizon,” says J.P. Gownder, Forrester Research VP and principal analyst. “They could really add to the amount of screen space available.”
Still, smart glasses could be five or more years out — which is plenty of time for the foldables market to be refined. In the meantime, my test run with the Fold2 showed promise. I was skeptical at first; I wondered if two screens would be too distracting. But soon I started to think of it as a mini laptop in my pocket, doing everything I’m familiar with…but on the go. The hardware is also impressive; unlike Samsung’s first foldable phone, this one has a firm hinge that holds it in place at any angle.
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What will come next? Here’s a safe bet: “Brands want to highlight their capability to innovate technology,” says Nabila Popal, research director with IDC’s Worldwide Tracker team. “It helps establish their image.” Which means more foldables are likely on the way.
Other Phones That Fold
Best feature: You can “split” apps such as Outlook and Microsoft Teams; your message is on one screen while the text of the email is on the other.
Best feature: It’s small enough to fit in one hand. The Quick View Display helps users respond to a message or check notifications without opening the phone.
Best feature: The second screen comes as an accessory. This phone transforms between one screen and two. It’s more affordable compared with other dual-screen phones.