Gizmodo: Foldable Phones and PCs Are Just Tablets

Calling the Galaxy Fold a “folding phone” makes zero sense. The original Razr was a folding phone. The new one is also a folding phone. The Galaxy Fold is not.

Dell Concept Ori
Dell Concept Ori

Alex Cranz: I will admit I’m partially to blame. I’ve edited a lot of Gizmodo stories about the new category of devices that look like a laptop or phone when closed, but open up into impressive-looking tablets.

In the course of editing those stories, I have furthered the characterization of these devices as folding phones and PCs. The companies call them that, and we reporters refer to them as such for the sake of accuracy.

But they’re folding tablets, and we all need to stop with these other corporate-approved names.

Calling the Galaxy Fold a “folding phone” makes zero sense. The original Razr was a folding phone. The new one is also a folding phone. The Galaxy Fold is not. It is a 4G-enabled tablet that can fold down to the size of a smartphone. Same goes for the Huawei Mate X and Royole FlexPai announced last year. Heck, same goes for the Microsoft Duo device teased last fall.

Dell, Microsoft, and Lenovo have made things even more complicated with the introduction of larger devices intended to replace tablets, too. At CES this year, Lenovo is showing off the ThinkPad X1 Fold, the world’s first “folding PC” with a giant flexible OLED. It resembles a Surface Pro if made in 1995. It can be used while folded at a right angle as a laptop, with either the on-screen keyboard or an accompanying Bluetooth keyboard. But it’s also functional laid flat, at which point it resembles a tablet.

Because it’s a tablet.

Dell has something extremely similar, the Concept Ori. It does most of the same things as Lenovo’s device but lacks the ability to be purchased later this year. The Concept Ori is still, you know, a concept not intended for sale.

As is Dell’s other tablet-called-laptop, the Concept Duet. It uses a design reminiscent of the Microsoft Neo announced late last year. Both the Duet and Neo look sort of like someone taped two iPads together. Two iPads taped together are just two tablets, so why would the Duet or Neo suddenly be a folding PC? No, they’re folding tablets that allow you to use them as one mega tablet, or as two smaller ones.

My colleague Sam Rutherford disagrees with my belief that these devices should be called folding tablets. “I don’t agree,” he said very succinctly via Slack. “Foldable is a perfectly fine catch-all[.] Foldable phones, foldable laptops[.] Very clear what something’s intended purpose is[.]”

What he means is that even though “foldable phone” and “foldable PC” make zero sense for imparting the impressive magnitude of these devices, people can still intuit what we mean by them. But just because our brains can cycle through all the possible definitions of “foldable PC” before settling on the definition tech companies prefer doesn’t mean our brains should be tasked with the chore.

Other solutions, like “dual-screen device” don’t feel particularly accurate either. The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold and Dell Concept Ori are both really just one huge screen that’s flexible enough to be folded in half. Same goes for the Samsung Galaxy Fold. More

By Alex Cranz