The biggest obstacle to the widespread adoption of phones with these new models is their high price. Samsung first foldable phone launched in 2019 for $ 1980. Last year’s Z Flip cost $ 1,380 and Microsoft’s Surface Duo sells for $ 1,400. However, those technologies will start to become a little more accessible this year, according to industry analyst Patrick Moorhead, founder and president of Moor Insights & Strategy.
“There is a price problem. I see it going down this year, ”says Moorhead. “If penetration prices could be applied to reach the entry level at $ 1,000, it would start to generate considerable volume.” Moorhead also expects to see more of these foldable models at Mobile World Congress in June. (MWC usually takes place at the end of February in Barcelona, but the show was postponed to June due to the Covid-19 pandemic.)
Another obstacle is reliability. Most high-end single-screen phones these days have durable glass protecting the screen, as well as an IP68 water resistance rating that protects it from accidental submersion in water. However, the Galaxy Fold 2019 was paralyzed after dust spots crept inside the foldable phone’s hinge, delaying the launch and forcing Samsung to modify the hinge mechanism. It was an embarrassing stumble, but things have come a long way in a year.
“When Lenovo launched Yoga, it took years for the industry to improve on things like hinges,” says Moorhead. “We even saw changes from year to year with Samsung when the second version of Fold used a brush mechanism, while the previous version used a traditional hinge. It might not seem like a big deal, but in the world of mechanical engineering it’s huge. “
This brush mechanism cleaned the inside of the hinge whenever the phone was opened or closed, and it helped prevent debris from sneaking into the internal components of the Fold 2. Moorhead expects foldable phones this year’s showcase the same levels of durability that we expect from rectangular tile designs. Streit echoed Moorhead’s sentiments and pointed out that mechanical engineering is playing an increasing role in the design of smartphones. “This industry hasn’t needed a lot of moving parts over the past 10 years,” he says. “The rollable has to be a very good mechanical experience that keeps dirt out.”
TCL says it plans to launch a foldable or rollable phone in 2021, and LG confirmed to Nikkei that the LG Rollable will go on sale this year. None of this is to say that the traditional single-screen phone experience is going to be gone anytime soon. After all, Streit notes that people still buy flip phones today. He also says that these new display technologies are “a long term strategy” for TCL.
Let the good times roll
It is to be expected that the first wave of devices with these new rolling screens will not try to incorporate too many new features. Otherwise, phone makers run the risk of overwhelming consumers accustomed to traditional smartphone designs.