2020 is the year where foldable smartphones went from a curiosity to a viable consumer product, giving the industry a much-needed shot in the arm.
Ever since Apple ushered in the modern smartphone era more than a decade ago, smartphones have rarely deviated from the single screen slab design. While app ecosystems have flourished, the fundamental way in which we use a smartphone hasn’t changed. In order for smartphones to evolve, the form factor needs to change with it and that’s where foldables come in.
Samsung’s Galaxy Z Fold 2 is a pocketable 6.2-inch smartphone that can be opened up like a book and turned into a big screen 7.6-inch tablet, and for me it has been an absolute game changer that makes it very difficult to go back to a regular smartphone.
Granted you can buy another flagship smartphone plus an iPad for around the same money, but the convenience factor in having one product that does both cannot be replicated. The best tablet is the one that’s always with you. Things that I would normally use my iPad Pro for, be it consuming content, reading or general productivity, I now default to using the Fold 2 instead.
The transition was not only seamless but more convenient — I no longer needed to lug around two different devices while also delivering complete continuity between smartphone and tablet. I could also comfortably hold the device one handed during extended use which is something I could never do with Apple’s tablet.
Things that were time consuming and downright frustrating to do on a smartphone became effortless on a foldable. For instance, smartphones aren’t adept at doing more than one thing at a time, constantly forcing you to jump back and forth between apps. You can, of course, do split-screen with most Android phones nowadays but smartphone screens are just too small to make more than one app on screen useful.
With the Fold 2, I can comfortably run two apps side-by-side complete with drag and drop functionality, allowing me to drag text and images from a browser into an open email or tee up a meeting time while having my calendar open.
The Fold 2 feels incredibly polished and a monumental improvement over the original, which felt more like an engineering prototype rather than a finished product. It delivers on the promise of being a tablet when you need it and a smartphone when you don’t with very little compromise in either department.
The huge shift in usability triggered by the advent of flexible screens is only set to accelerate in the coming year with every major smartphone maker working on foldables of their own that should see them reach more accessible price points sooner rather than later.
TCL, for instance, has committed to delivering an affordable foldable, while also showing off a high-end tri-fold smartphone concept that cleverly uses two hinges that fold out in opposite directions to produce a 10-inch screen when unfolded.