After 10 years of the touchscreen slab, it's time for something new. The next phase for smartphones is foldables — devices with screens that fold. Whether that's a phone that folds open into a tablet or a phone that folds in half to become smaller. Everyone from Samsung to Motorola is pushing foldable phones as the next big thing.
There's just one problem: every serious stab at a foldable phone has failed. Companies want us to believe that things will be different this year. But I have my doubts. Overcoming the challenges doesn't seem worth the trouble and so far nobody has made a reliable and durable foldable phone. This is a brief history of how disastrous foldables have been thus far.
The FlexPai's gap when folded up is enormous. I could stick my pinky finger inside of it. Mashable famously called out the phone's hinge for its "audible crunching sound" when you folded the device up. The software is terrible and doesn't adapt well when switching between screen modes. On top of this mess: it cost about $1,300 (8,999 yuan).
Shen didn't share details, but from the images, it appears Oppo was exploring a form factor that was similar to Huawei's Mate X with a tablet-sized screen on the outside screen that folds in half.
According to TechCrunch, Shen said Oppo (in February of 2019 at least) didn't believe foldable phones improved the user experience. The concept device never made it to production and Shen said Oppo would take a wait-and-see approach before diving headfirst into commercializing a foldable device.
Xiaomi co-founder and president Lin Bin posts a video on Weibo showing off a device with a screen that folds in two places. The foldable concept device looks pretty sick, like one of the foldable devices used in Westworld.
At IFA 2019, TCL shows off several concept foldable phones that demonstrate its patented "dragon hinge." There's one that could theoretically wrap around your wrist or clip to your shirt.
And worse, you couldn't find the phone on launch day. Input called dozens of stores in the tri-state area and in San Francisco, but most Verizon stores didn't have the Razr. And the few lucky flagship stores that did only had one. That's no way to launch an anticipated smartphone that reportedly exceeded demand.
After all of the launch chaos, we finally had a chance to do some real world testing with the phone. And, well, it's cool, but so, so mediocre. The phone's a real tragedy says our very own Joshua Topolsky.
Can Samsung's new foldable succeed where the Galaxy Fold and other foldable phones have failed? We won't know until we get to try it out at Unpacked on February 11 and test one for a review. But if the graveyard of failed foldable phones and concepts is any indication, these devices have a long way to come before they're the kind of phones that mainstream users can count on.