Apple’s rumoured foldable iPhone could launch within the next two years. But by then, Samsung – and a handful of other Android manufacturers – will have refined their initial clunky foldable phone designs. Outside of the Apple Factor, what can the iPhone maker do to stay competitive in the new foldable phone market?
I’ve been following Samsung’s development hell of its first foldable phone for a few years and I can’t help but feel like the final product is a bit of an anti climax. Technologically it’s obviously impressive and, in general terms, it kick starts a new product line that should see some impressive innovation in the next few years.
But when it comes to the here and now, there doesn’t seem to be much reason to buy the Galaxy Fold. The small, 4.6-inch cover display with giant bezels means it isn’t a smartphone by today’s (and Samsung’s own) standards. And its small tablet size, which doesn’t fold completely flat, means it’s not on par with a pure tablet – including the excellent Galaxy Tab range. It’s neither accomplished tablet or smartphone – so what is its purpose outside of being an interesting concept?
Apple would do well to find a genuine reason to launch a foldable device. Something that not only improves the handset experience, but is also necessary – rather than a demonstration of what is possible. The company and device that might actually achieve that is Motorola’s rumoured foldable Razr V4.
New shape, new ideas
The first round of foldable devices from Samsung, LG (sort of) and Huawei all follow a similar premise: phone that extends out into a small tablet.
I’d like to see Apple launch with something innovative that doesn’t follow this form factor. A device that rolls out of a small housing unit, for example (similar to LG’s new rollable TV). Or a pocket-sized phone that folds out into a normal, modern-sized iPhone – similar to old flip phones. If Apple does go with the book-shape then perhaps one of the displays could be an e-ink screen for reading ebooks, which would see Apple break into the eReader market.
The eReader idea is probably too gimmicky for Apple, but there should be a clear differentiation point that solves the issue of purpose and moves the foldable market on from concept to necessity.