What are foldable smartphones and which options are available to buy?

If you keep up with the latest technology trends, you’ll likely have seen the numerous foldable smartphone options cropping up across the market over the past couple of years. The first of its kind the Royole FlexPai was launched in 2019 at the Consumer Electronics Show by the relatively small Chinese company, Royole. Since then, other major players in the smartphone market have released, or are set to launch, their own versions. Read on for more information on how these devices work and some of the best versions that exist (as of May 2021).

What are foldable smartphones?

Foldable smartphones provide users with a flexible display that allows the screen to bend completely without breaking. While some options fold out on a vertical axis into a wider tablet-style device, others fold horizontally like a clamshell. The main benefit of these foldable smartphones is that you can enjoy the best of both worlds, using a big screen to display movies and games on your device but enabling you to fold it up once you’re finished to take up less space in your pocket.

Currently, due to the nature of the flexible screen, these devices are much more delicate than regular smartphones and so by dropping them, or even pressing hard with a ball-point pen, it is much more likely you will shatter the screen. They also cost much more than most smartphones on the market, although the price will most likely be reduced once the technology develops further over time.

What choices are available to purchase?

There are a number of well-known and reputable smartphone manufacturers who have released their own foldable smartphone. Below we list the most popular.

Motorola Razr

At the beginning of 2020, Motorola announced its second foldable phone the RAZR with 5G, allowing it to connect to super-fast 5G networks. The company’s idea is to bring back its iconic 2000s flip phone in name and look, but redesign it to be more modern with a folding screen. The RAZR has a clamshell design that opens vertically and allows the phone to be smaller than your average smartphone when folded. Nonetheless it still sports a 6.2-inch main display when unfolded allowing it to compete with top-end flagships.

In addition, this foldable is built from aluminum and Gorilla Glass 5, this version is much sturdier than the 2019 model the company brought out and has 200,000-fold lifespan. The phone also has two cameras, one on the front and one on the inside. This means you can take selfies even when the phone is folded shut. However, users have complained that the screen creaks when opened and that the battery life is sub par when compared to its competitors. 

Huawei Mate X2

The third iteration of Huawei’s foldable phone is the Mate X2, which is said to be its most durable folding phone due to the fact the folding display is protected inside the phone when it’s closed. Unfortunately, the Mate X2 does not have support for Google’s apps or services, which is likely to severely limit its appeal outside of China. 

However, it is set to be among one the first phones to be updated to Huawei’s own operating system, HarmonyOS for app manufacturers to produce their products on and to integrate all Huawei devices with one another (like your Apple watch can do with your iPhone). The phone also comes with four cameras, and an internal screen that measures 8 inches (20.32 cm) and an external screen of 6.45 inches (16.4 cm).

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2

The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 is Samsung’s fourth iteration of a folding phone, with the first one pulled before it even hit the market due to its fragility. As is the case with the other smartphone manufacturers already listed above, the latest version features a range of improvements on the original design, the most important being that it’s much more durable. With a new sturdier ultra thin glass display, users get a better touchscreen feel than the plastic screen in the first Fold, and with a hideaway hinge that uses sweeper technology, dust and dirt is prevented from entering the phone.

The external screen is around 6.2 inches long and the internal one folds out to make the phone 7.6 inches, just slightly smaller than the Mate X2. It also comes with 5G capabilities, so users can make the most of this network. However, this device is heavy. Weighing in at over 9.9 ounces, (280 grams) you’re likely to feel this in your back pocket. 

The Fold 2 also has five cameras, three 12MP rear cameras, allowing for a range of zoomed and wide angle photos and two 10MP cameras (one of the cover and one on the inside tablet display). Yet, with the Fold 3 set to arrive in summer 2021 with even more features and improvements included, if you did want to purchase a foldable phone it might be worth waiting till then to see if the upgrades are worth the price you’ll pay. 

The future foldables

While other phone companies like Apple and Google haven’t released their own foldable phones yet, there is evidence that they are exploring the concept. This is either based on official reports or patent filings. You can read more about these here

Would you buy a foldable smartphone? Let us know in the comments section, and, if you have any questions or other technology queries, tweet us at @techtroublesho1.

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