Are you interested in buying one of those fancy foldable phones? There are some (mostly) valid concerns that you may have about it. We’ll try to address those worries before you fork over the extra cash, as well as share some of the unexpected benefits.
You Will Notice the Crease in the Display
A foldable phone, when unfolded, has much more screen real estate than a standard slab. That’s pretty much the entire point of a foldable screen. But that doesn’t mean you will necessarily appreciate gaming or watching videos on the foldable more than you would on a more rigid phone. Why? Because the area where the phone bends comes with a distinct crease.
Is a crease the end of the world? Hardly. Some people stop noticing the bulge after a while. Others, on the other hand, find it to be something they just can’t un-see. In general, it’s something you will almost certainly feel with your finger while moving around the touchscreen, but it’s not visually noticeable most of the time.
The Screen is More Fragile
The foldable screen doesn’t just come with a crease—it’s also more prone to scratches and cracks. Yes, introducing more moving parts leads to a more delicate design, but that’s not the only issue here. Flexible displays don’t come with the level of protection you get from the latest Gorilla Glass. If you scratch a key against both a foldable and a non-foldable display, the foldable screen will show scratches far sooner.
Even if you’re particularly careful with your device, some foldables fall victim to damage from small particles like sand getting caught between the screen when it folds. Newer devices are more resilient than earlier generations, but that doesn’t mean they’re immune, and you want to be especially careful when shopping on the second-hand market. Fortunately, you may still be able to fix your damaged screen. For example, Samsung has started selling replacement parts for foldables.
You Will Pay a Premium
You probably are already well aware of this fact if you’re interested in foldable phones: They cost an order of magnitude more than their non-folding counterparts. The Pixel Fold, for example, launched at a staggering $1,799. That was over twice as much as a regular Pixel 8 and, frankly, not that far off from being twice the price of a Pixel 8 Pro.
The Pixel Fold is not unusual in that regard. Whether you buy your foldable from Samsung or OnePlus, you can expect it to cost significantly more than their flagship devices. And as I’ll talk about later in this article, that higher price doesn’t always mean you’re getting the absolute best specs the company has to offer.
Flipping Open a Phone Gets Old
Maybe you’re interested in the modern flip-style foldable phones that replicate a form factor that has been around for decades. That doesn’t mean the format is perfect for how we use phones today. In the past, you flipped open your phone a few times a day to place a call or send a text. That was about it.
Now, you may have to flip open your phone every time you want to check the weather, edit your playlist, watch a YouTube clip, or open GPS instructions. The list goes on. We use our devices so much more than we used to, and having to open your phone first can get tedious rather quickly. However, if you’re looking for ways to reduce your screen-on time, then this may actually be a plus.
Foldable Phones Can Be Bulky
OnePlus Open / Samsung Galaxy S22
A book-style foldable is a chunkier device than you might be used to carrying. In some cases, it may feel like carrying two phones in your pocket at one time—because you pretty much are. A phone that can transform into a tablet has to store that big screen somewhere.
Manufacturers have been working to make foldables thinner, in part by making the actual hardware smaller but also by reducing the size of the gap between the display when closed. Yet, if you value having a thin device over all else, it’s hard for two screens to compete against one. Foldables are getting better in this regard, but we’re not quite there yet.
Also, Less Bulky
On the other hand, flip-style foldables like the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip are actually much more pocketable than a standard smartphone. They are essentially half the height of a regular phone when folded.
Now that there are foldables capable of running complete apps on their exterior screen while closed, as is the case with the Moto Razr+ and the aforementioned Z Flip, flip-style foldables have become the new tiny phone. While folding phones introduce many issues that “boring” phones don’t have, pocketability is a true selling point.
You Might Settle For Inferior Cameras
For all that money, it’s perfectly reasonable to think that a foldable is a company’s actual flagship, the most powerful and capable device in its lineup. That’s simply not the case. While foldables haven’t sacrificed much when it comes to processors or RAM, virtually all have come with inferior cameras to their slab equivalents.
Smartphone makers don’t have much space to work with on regular phones, and the situation gets even more complicated once you have to add in space for hinges. Then, you have to consider how much bulk you are willing to add to what may already be a bulky device.
For example, the Pixel Fold has a 48MP main camera, 10.8MP telephoto camera, and 10.8MP wide-angle camera. Meanwhile, the Pixel 8 Pro has a 50MP main camera, 48MP telephoto camera, and 48MP wide-angle camera.
The Software Experience Isn’t as Polished
Book-style foldable phones suffer from an issue that, frankly, has long plagued tablets and Android devices using anything other than a standard phone-sized screen. That’s the lack of app support. While most Google apps will adjust to a larger screen just fine, a lot of third-party software simply won’t. This includes many mainstream apps, like official social networking clients and video streaming apps. You can use them side-by-side on an unfolded phone but expect vertical letterboxing when launching a single app on a larger screen.
Book-style foldables have also experimented with various ways to take advantage of their additional screen real estate. Most introduce docks. Some have floating windows. For the most part, these features are nice value-adds, but you can expect some quirks along the way.
A Book-Style Foldable Is a More Portable Tablet
Lest you think it’s all bad, consider this: the interior screen of a book-style foldable is not that much smaller than a tablet’s. Sure, that extra inch does make a tablet a better viewing experience, but the screen on a foldable is still much larger than that on your standard slab. That gives you more screen real estate for showing people photos or watching movies together.
A foldable is much more portable than a tablet. So, even if you already have a tablet at home, just like with cameras, the best tablet is the one you have on you. After a while, you may find that your foldable has replaced your need for a tablet entirely.
A Foldable Is Its Own Stand
A larger screen isn’t the only benefit of having a flexible display. The presence of a hinge gives your phone the ability to function more as a laptop. That means when watching a video, you can tilt up the top half of the screen while the device rests on its bottom half. This is another way in which a book-style foldable actually surpasses tablets for consuming media. No matter where you are and whether you have any accessories on you, a foldable is always ready.
Smartphone design has become pretty predictable, which makes foldables exciting to watch. But there’s a reason smartphones aren’t changing that much. The standard design is great. Foldables have their perks, but they also have cons that still make them not quite ready to dominate.