Phones have been basically perfect in terms of software features for a while now, so there’s no surprises there either, just like in the design department. Have we reached peak smartphone? Is it this magic rectangle that can do great things, besides really surprise us with anything new anymore?
Well, it’s very difficult for a company, even a highly profitable one like, say, Microsoft, to break the mold with something new, even if it wanted to.
iPhone and Android are dominant, so a new phone operating system like Windows Phone didn’t stand a chance. And slab designs are what the majority of consumers expect and are used to, so trying to sell an extravagant new design (say, a dual-display phone) is usually a guaranteed financial flop for a company, should it even be brave enough to attempt it. But…
Samsung managed to do what many others failed to – Microsoft, LG, Google…
Recently Samsung’s president and head of Mobile Experience Business reassuringly said something I bet many people find hard to believe even today – folding phones are about to go mainstream.Foldable phone shipments rose 300% just last year, and that’s in great part thanks to Samsung’s efforts to develop ever better Galaxy Z Fold and Z Flip phones annually, and its huge investments into aggressively marketing them.
It would appear that it all worked out for Samsung, though. The risk was worth it, the juice was worth the squeeze. The upcoming Galaxy Z Fold 4 and Galaxy Z Flip 4 would likely do well, and impress us even more than their predecessors did.
But where there’s a story of success, what we don’t usually see is the countless other stories of failure.
Much more often than not, things don’t work out for a business that’s taking a risk, and not necessarily because of incompetence, but due to timing, luck, and so many other factors.
Microsoft tried to make a dual-display phone, but…
The Surface Duo 2
You may have heard of the Microsoft Surface Duo. It had a bit of a rocky launch back in late 2020, due to its buggy (and in some cases, unintuitive) software, but surprisingly, Microsoft didn’t give up on it as fast as I expected. Because in my experience, Microsoft gives up on things pretty quickly, if they don’t immediately result in profits.
But not the Surface Duo – it actually received a successor in 2021 – the Duo 2, which tried to remedy the first Duo’s issues. Its objectively small number of users were mainly unhappy with the camera quality being sub-par, and, as we mentioned, the software being buggy.
So, a successor, huh? With ambitions to improve. Does that mean Microsoft is ready and willing to lose money on this project for a few years, until it starts picking up, like Samsung did with its foldables? Those had a rocky start too, with units’ displays breaking, for example. But Samsung kept on improving them, didn’t get discouraged and didn’t give up.
And while we can’t be sure whether Microsoft will follow that example and make its sleek, dual-screen Android phone a big deal – we know this – recently a budget version of the Duo 2, the Surface Duo 2 “Lite” was reportedly canceled. Pretty much before the world even knew about it.
Now, while a mid-range, affordable ($750) dual-display phone sounds to me like a great product worth making, apparently Microsoft sees things different. And even worse – this might be a sign that the Windows and Xbox giant is losing faith in the Duo as a whole.
Does that mean there won’t be a Surface Duo 3? We’ll lose the only current dual-display phone that was (sort of) on the market? Well, things aren’t looking great right now, but there’s nothing official to suggest a cancellation.
The Surface Duo 3 might be announced this year, or delayed for next year, unless it really gets unceremoniously canceled. I truly want this one to succeed, but then again, I wanted Windows Phone and Nokia Lumia to succeed also, and we all know how that tale ended.
LG “rolled” out of the smartphone market, so its rollable phone never made it
LG Rollable patent images
Ah, the LG Rollable. Another tragic story that got us so excited and waiting in anticipation for “the next new thing.”For about two years before LG left the smartphone market, its then-upcoming rollable phone periodically made the news. And it wasn’t just news based on rumors or leaks, LG itself showcased the thing near the end – it was looking to be an almost complete product! It got so close to release…
Unlike Microsoft’s dual-screen phone we talked about earlier, the LG Rollable would’ve gotten (as the name so aptly suggests) a single, rollable display. The phone would have had a traditional form factor at first, but with the press of a switch its display, half of which rested rolled around and hidden inside the phone’s frame, would’ve been able to unroll and expand – turning this phone into a tablet.
The foldable Motorola Razr is still kickin’, but let’s be honest…
The Motorola Razr 2020
Motorola was, in fact, ahead of the game, beating Samsung’s 2020 release of the first Z Flip by releasing its own Motorola Razr (2019) in… yeah, 2019!
And Moto actually had a legacy to fall back on with its folding phone; it was built to resemble the good old, original Razr clamshell phone from 2003.
Moto’s new, foldable-screen Razr has a lip, a razor thin build, and is more angular than the Z Fold, looking more edgy in general, thus possibly appealing to a smaller group of people because of it.
But that’s what I loved about it – it was a competitor to the Z Flip that wasn’t just a clone; it was not only first to release, but it was different in its design language, and with actual, prominent legacy behind it.
And Moto followed it with the Motorola Razr (2020). We were pretty harsh on it in our Motorola Razr (2020) review, deservingly so, calling out its many shortcomings for what was a pretty steep price of $1400. Those most notably included its poor performance, plasticky feel in the hand, and its creaky hinge which wasn’t too reassuring for the thing’s longevity.
But still, it had character, it had potential, and while it’s not doing too well in terms of sales and taking over “the mainstream” like Samsung’s foldables are, we’re happy to report that a Motorola Razr 3 is in the works. In fact, Moto recently showed it off in a sleek, not too revealing trailer. Even more recently, it was announced that the Razr 3 would be released on August 2nd!
And while its price is rumored to have dropped to around $1150, Moto should definitely consider matching the Samsung Z Flip 4’s reportedly much cheaper $899 starting price, in order to stand a reasonable chance.
We’ll see what happens, but for now, Moto’s foldable flip phone isn’t shaping up to become a viable competitor to what Samsung’s offering, just a more niche alternative, particularly for fans of the original 2003 Razr. In any case, thank goodness Moto isn’t giving up on it.
Even Google couldn’t do what Samsung could
Pixel Fold concept by YouTuber Waqar Khan
Google’s own, long-awaited folding smartphone is still on ice – the fabled Google Pixel Fold. Or perhaps the Google Passport, or Google Logbook, or Google Pixel Notepad…
This device has been through so many reported revisions, delays, cancellations, name changes and redesigns, that we basically don’t know anything concrete about it, other than the fact that it may have been ultimately canceled.
And why did Google supposedly cancel it? Obviously not because a huge goliath like this search engine giant can’t spare the money needed for research and development for a foldable phone, but, get this – because of Samsung’s Galaxy Z Fold.
The Z Fold is just so good, Google supposedly decided that it couldn’t release a product as equally good, or better… So why bother?
Samsung’s Galaxy Z Fold 3, and the upcoming Z Fold 4, are the results of generational updates – now with the most unobtrusive crease, the strongest flexible AMOLED displays… Plus tons of fantastic OneUI software features, like the ability to run three apps at a time, with even more in windows, and my favorite – the DeX desktop mode. They even have their own S Pen stylus now, made for their flexible folding displays! How could Google possibly challenge all that from its first attempt at a folding phone?
But by that logic, how could anyone?
In my opinion, Google could’ve just targeted a different demographic – budget foldables! Just make a reasonably-priced and simpler foldable. One that would greatly undercut the Galaxy Z Fold, and with good distribution, could’ve potentially sold even better from the get-go.
In any case, we’re yet to see what Google’s next move would be when it comes to foldables. Hopefully not nothing, because we can always use the extra competition, since that drives the prices down and innovations forward.
Here comes the Galaxy Z Fold 4 – a powerhouse of a phone for the productivity-oriented Android power user
Samsung’s next Galaxy Z Fold phone, along with the Z Flip 4, are to be unveiled pretty soon – on August 10th, 2022, and will likely be released the following week.
By most reports it’ll remain at a hefty price of around $1800, but for that wad of cash you’ll be getting the peak of Android smartphones. The most suitable phone for the Android power user.
Reportedly with up to half a gig of storage space, driven by the flagship Qualcomm Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 chip, and at least 12 GB of RAM, it’ll be a dream phone for multitasking.
Not to mention one that offers the amazing privilege of watching content on a tablet that was just a smartphone in your pocket two seconds ago.
I’ve personally always disliked switching between several different devices (e.g. a phone and a tablet), and having to sync files and accounts across them all.
So this idea of one smartphone that can also be your tablet, and with Samsung DeX and an external display – even your desktop “PC” – is crazy appealing!
“Fold users love the multitasking capability of a screen that doubles in size, so they can be more efficient and get things done faster,” said recently Sammy’s Mobile Experience Business head Dr. TM Roh. And he’s spot on, right on the money.
Multitasking on the Z Fold 2
This is the target demographic of the Galaxy Z Fold 4, and clearly, it’s not a small one. Although if we compare its sales to the Z Flip, we’ll find that the latter, somewhat predictably, appeals to a vastly larger demographic…
Here comes the Galaxy Z Flip 4: A trend-setter, the flip phone of the modern age, for those who wish to stand out
According to Dr. Roh, “70% of Galaxy Z foldable phone buyers voted with their own money and picked the Galaxy Z Flip while the remaining 30% chose the Galaxy Z Fold.”
This shows us something we already kind of knew – while the Z Fold is perfect for a more niche, Android power user demographic, the Galaxy Z Flip is the one for the masses.
And not just because it’s very cute and appealing to a much broader number of casual phone users, but also because it’s vastly more affordable than the Z Fold.
The Galaxy Z Flip 3, which the Z Flip 4 will be pretty similar to
While the upcoming Fold 4 is, as we mentioned, likely to cost around $1800, the Galaxy Z Flip 4 might be as within reach as $899. Yep, what’s normally a pretty average flagship phone price would be able to get you the trendiest foldable phone, very soon!And just like Samsung knows its audience when it comes to the Z Fold 4, it’s very well aware who the Z Flip 4 appeals to also. And that is exactly why we recently heard that its Bespoke edition will offer up to 1000 color combination options.
Are you ready to give foldables a chance? Have you ever used a foldable, and what do you think about them?
The Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Z Flip 3
Let us know – have you already used dual-screen or folding phones, which ones, and what was your experience like?
If not, share your thoughts on the upcoming Galaxy foldables – are you sold on them? Or would you rather wait for more competition to arrive, driving those prices down a bit?