Intuitively, a folding phone seems like a good idea. Nice phone! Nice tablet! Put them together, fold them in half, and in a blink of an eye: you’ve got the best of both worlds. It’s also thanks to Samsung for being willing to put itself through all the growing pains to figure out how to make a good foldable phone. Last year’s Galaxy Z Fold 3 was a good foldable, and the new Z Fold 4 looks even better, if anything. (I have a lot of thoughts on the new era of flip phones, like the Z Flip 4, but we’ll save that for another day.)
What Samsung hasn’t done — something no one has actually done — shows why you really want a foldable phone. Until it can explain why it’s worth all the extra cost and trade-offs, I’m having a hard time figuring out why you’d give up on getting a phone you know and love.
What Samsung needs to do with the Galaxy Fold (and the rest of the industry will eventually need to do with their own foldables) is to convince people that it’s worth buying a more expensive, flimsy phone with more pocket space.
The worst thing about foldables right now is that they force you to make a major sacrifice on the most important device you own: your smartphone. The new Fold 4 is a bit shorter than the Galaxy S22 Ultra, weighs about an ounce, and is about twice as thick as the Galaxy S22 Ultra. It’s also $600 more expensive. The Ultra has a bigger battery, better camera specs, and a 6.8-inch screen that supports the S Pen. The Fold 4 is noticeably larger when opened, but the candy bar is still huge. Fold made a lot of sacrifices for more real estate.
I don’t even know Samsung Know why you are making all these sacrifices. On its website, the company offers the first selling point that you can prop the screen on a table by opening it halfway for hands-free viewing or video shooting. Actually, we call it a stand, and it’s a very expensive stand. You’re also only using half of the screen in this mode, which kind of defeats the whole purpose.
So far, multitasking appears to be a practical advantage for foldable devices. Open up your Galaxy Fold and you can run two apps side by side, or even three or four apps on the screen at the same time! I agree, it’s a pleasant thing. Being able to use my browser and my note-taking app side-by-side, or check my calendar and my email at the same time, is much better than constantly swiping between two full-screen apps. It’s best to look at two pages at a time in the Kindle app. do you know? The big screen is great—good for gaming, good for reading, good for watching Netflix.
But these aren’t just arguments for foldables; their arguments tablet. So far, the Android tablet argument doesn’t seem to convince many users. While Android has gotten better as a big-screen OS, and the Fold 4’s software based on Android 12L is a good sign, too many apps “optimized” for foldables are really just a giant sticker on one side Sidebar, which doesn’t accomplish much. Others just show everything to fit on a larger screen. Don’t even get me started on how the vast majority of apps handle Microsoft’s approach of two separate screens attached to a hinge.
Samsung has done a great job of bringing all the weirdness of Android to the Fold’s screen, and overall, it’s not that the Fold doesn’t work; it’s just that the Fold is nothing like a phone or tablet you probably already carry around Much better. Cramming them into one device actually makes them both worse.
For years, I’ve been trying to make a device that can do anything. There are modular devices, such as Google’s Project Ara and Asus PadFone. There are expandable phones from companies like Essential and Motorola. In each case, they end up being mediocre versions of everything that somehow adds up to less than the sum of their parts. Right now, foldables are stuck in the same place: Bulky, bulky, expensive phones that unfold into tiny tablets with far too fast battery life and durability.
Another approach to a multi-screen future is to try to build the best version of each device, letting users choose which device they want to use at any given time, and making sure their software, settings, and data flow seamlessly through the ecosystem. That’s roughly what Apple does: it’ll happily sell you Macs, iPads, and iPhones because they’re all good for different things, and then use iCloud and the App Store to get everything working on those devices. It could end up being more expensive— — although you can get the iPhone 13 and iPad Mini for less than the Fold 4 — it has fewer trade-offs.
Still, having said all this, I can’t help myself: I want the tweener device to work. I want a touchscreen Mac, and I want a foldable phone that’s both a great phone and a great tablet. That means less to charge, less to update, and less to carry around. But I wouldn’t downgrade my phone to fit a decent tablet, which still feels like a foldable.