Remember the relish with which you would pull out your Motorola Razr back in the day? Well, folding screens are ready for another round, writes Nafisa Akabor.
Flexible displays are set to be the next big thing in the technology world. We’ve seen LG showcase a rollable TV at CES in Las Vegas, US, and a host of mobile manufacturers are experimenting with similar technologies. From Oppo to Motorola and Samsung to Huawei, there’s been a renewed interest in flip phones and, now, folding screen devices.
However, a 2019 release seemed too soon for these handsets. Samsung admitted it rushed to market with the Galaxy Fold after review units in the US kept breaking and, subsequently, Huawei postponed the release of the Mate X several times. Both phablets were unveiled to the media in South Africa briefly, with a very limited interaction.
In the same year Oppo showcased a prototype at MWC, and Motorola revived the beloved Razr, but with features and functionality of a lower-end device. All of this confirmed that foldables are still in their infancy stages, with plenty of room for improvement.
Fast forward to February 2020 and Samsung took the wraps off its Galaxy Z Flip; an appealing flip phone with lessons learnt from the Galaxy Fold. At the global livestream event held in Johannesburg, the company created hype around the dinky little handset by announcing that Bonang was its new brand ambassador.
The South Korean mobile giant has promised that the 6.7-inch flip phone can fold over 200 000 times without an issue. It also features a tiny 1.1-inch display in the front for notifications, and supports a flex mode that splits the display into two four-inch screens for multitasking. It features 12MP dual rear cameras, a 10MP selfie-cam, 8GB of RAM, 256GB of storage and a 3300mAh battery.
A few weeks later, Huawei announced the Mate Xs in what would have been at MWC, via a livestream from Barcelona, Spain, to its Johannesburg office. The second-generation eight-inch folding tablet is made from a zirconium-based liquid metal with a redesigned hinge. Once folded, the front screen is 6.6-inches and the back 6.38.
Due to its design, it only has quad cameras at the back, which double up as the selfie-camera when folded. It comprises 40-, 16- and 8MP lenses, along with a depth camera; 8GB of RAM; 512GB of storage; and a 4500mAh battery.
My early impressions of both devices, after using them briefly, are that the technology is impressive, but it’s too soon to comment on how it will wear between all the flipping and folding action from daily use.
I preferred the size of the Galaxy Z Flip because a folding phone is more appealing to my needs than having a tablet that folds sitting in my pocket. That said, the latter is more suited to those who want to be productive on the go, instead of carrying a large tablet around.
I would love to see the technology become a polished product, which will probably take time. I’m here for the foldable phone era, but not at its current prices. The Galaxy Z Flip costs R29 999, and the Mate Xs is €2 499 (R43 200 on direct conversion; local price TBA). While it is currently suited to early adopters who must have the latest and greatest, only time will determine its success.