OnePlus CEO Pete Lau doesn’t think folding phones are good enough

Pete Lau’s first podcast appearance

Oneplus mclaren shop
Oneplus mclaren shop

Last week at CES 2020, The Verge’s Nilay Patel and Dieter Bohn sat down with OnePlus CEO Pete Lau on The Vergecast for his first official podcast appearance.

By Andrew Marino

OnePlus debuted a new concept phone, the OnePlus Concept One McLaren Edition, at the Consumer Electronics Show this year, so Lau came on the show to discuss what the design of the phone means for the future of the OnePlus smartphone line as well as his thoughts on newer technologies in the mobile world, like 5G and folding phones.

In the interview, Lau says OnePlus has looked into foldable screens, but the company believes that the upside of foldable tech is “outweighed by the shortcomings or the disadvantages of the current state of the technology.”

Lau is not a native English speaker, so he spoke to us through an interpreter for this discussion. Below is a lightly edited excerpt from that conversation.

Nilay Patel: There are a couple of concepts that other companies are doing. I’m thinking specifically of folding phones. Do you think that’s silly? Do you think it’s not ready yet?

Eric Gass (Pete Lau’s interpreter): Foldable is actually an example of something that we have looked into but not pursued. That’s because, in looking into the application of what’s currently available for foldable screen technology, we haven’t found that the significant advantage or value that’s brought that isn’t outweighed by the shortcomings or the disadvantages of the current state of the technology.

What do you think has to change about the technology to change that ratio?

One point to focus on here in response to the question, if you look at the fold and the current foldable technology devices, it’s very large and not very clean or a very crisp fold. That also currently results in a lot of screen creasing or issues with where the fold is in the screen. This isn’t something that I can accept in products that are built. Only when the technology is able to get to the level where that folds can be really crisp and not impact the screen at where the fold happens is when it could be potentially usable or potentially applicable.

Have you looked at some of the other strategies where, instead of the big curve, the screen actually moves in and out? I think that the Motorola Razor, the screen actually moves when you fold it … the screen actually pulls up so it can make that tighter fold. Is that something you consider?

Just to showcase that the Motorola fold is different in that it’s from, I guess, top to bottom versus left to right. But what Pete’s saying is that the fold is still not a clean crease to the degree that he would want in a product that he would make.

Even though their application is slightly different, it’s still facing that same challenge for the actual fold part, including the screen material itself. Because it’s a plastic material, its ability to have the scratch resistance of glass just isn’t there yet, either. More

By Andrew Marino