Is Samsung’s foldable phone worth the hype?

By | 7th November 2018

Samsung has hyped up the future of foldable phones for years, but at SDC 2018 we are finally one step closer. During its keynote, Samsung announced its new Samsung Infinity Flex Display technology. It also gave us a brief glimpse of a prototype that will be the basis for the 2019 commercial model.

The concept of a foldable phone is undeniably cool, but any first-generation product is bound to have some drawbacks. Here are just a few things to consider before you jump head first into the foldable hype train.

Samsung’s foldable phone is likely going to be a bit clunky

Samsung was quick to point out that the prototype it showed off (in the dark) was masked to not give away design elements. This suggests it could be in some kind of a casing. Nonetheless, we wager this is going to be at least a little on the thick side.

Samsung’s foldable phone consists of a smaller cover display, a 7.3 inch tablet display, a battery, camera, and all the other components required for a modern smartphone. That’s a lot of stuff to pack in. It’s hard to say how much thicker or clunkier this will be compared to a standard phone, but it’s still something to keep in mind.

Two displays? This isn’t going to be cheap

Modern smartphones like the Galaxy Note 9 run right around $1000, which is not exactly cheap. Now add in a 7.3-inch tablet and a front cover display. Odds are this thing could easily cost $1200 to $1500, if not more.

On the plus side, you’re getting a tablet and a phone in one cutting-edge package. But it’s a 7.3-inch tablet. There’s a reason 7-inch tablets are less popular today, and that’s big screen phones.

A foldable phone isn't going to be cheap.

The Note 9 is already 6.4-inches, so the Samsung foldable phone will be bigger but it’s certainly not large enough to replace a 10-inch tablet. This slightly diminishes the “2 devices in one argument”.

Is an inch more screen real-estate worth what could be a $400-$500 premium over devices like the Note 9? It depends on how much you value that extra space, as well as the bragging rights that will come with owning one of the most futuristic looking devices on the planet.

App support could be a (minor) factor

Depending on screen ratios and other information we don’t fully know yet, some apps may not work as seamlessly as others with Samsung’s foldable phone when it first launches. Samsung is already working hard to get developers onboard with its foldable technology so this probably isn’t a major issue. That said, smaller developer studios are less likely to get onboard right away. If you use a lot of niche and indie apps, you may likely face a few more problems.

Again, this is a minor point and one that I can’t say will even be a real issue by the time the phone launches.

Samsung’s foldable probably won’t be a mainstream device, and that’s fine

The Note Edge wasn’t mainstream either.. but it had future implications for how Samsung approached its phones.

This might sound like I’m bashing Samsung’s foldable phone. Actually, I’m very excited for it, or at least the implications it has for the future of smartphones.

While Samsung’s foldable phone is bound to have compromises, that’s expected for a first generation product. It’s not going to please everyone. It might be a bit thicker, it could have some design quirks, and it’s probably not going to be very affordable. It’s not going to be perfect and not everyone will love it.

If you’re a tech-lover, there’s plenty of reasons to get hyped up about Samsung’s first foray into foldables. You just might not want to actually buy one yet, unless the above compromises don’t bother you.

This is a first-gen product, and is probably not for everyone

A lot of people felt the same about the Samsung Galaxy Note Edge.

The Edge debuted in 2014, bringing us a curved edge device that was considered more than a little quirky. At around $1000, it was also rather pricey. While some loved it, others felt it wasn’t the most polished device and that ergonomics were compromised by the design. It’s very possible the foldable phone will face a similar response initially, but let’s remember what happened next.

After the Edge, Samsung refined its design language with the S6 Edge, and it’s continued to use curved displays ever since. Sure, the curve has evolved over the years, but it was the Note Edge that pioneered what eventually would become a common design element for Samsung devices.

I suspect the Samsung foldable will have some critics, will have limited availability, and will cost a lot. But it’s an evolutionary step that’s likely to affect Samsung’s strategy for years to come. I’m excited, even though I’m not yet sure if the first foldable Galaxy will be the phone for me.

What about you? Excited for the future of foldables or do you think it’s a lot of hype over nothing? Let us know in the comments.