Tech & The Web

Maybe a Foldable Smartphone Isn’t Such a Great Idea


The first time I saw talk of a foldable smartphone, I thought it sounded like a horrible idea. The idea may not be ready for prime time.

If there’s one smartphone technology breakthrough I have no interest in, it’s the foldable smartphone.

The first thing I thought of when I saw reports of the possibility was the fragility of the screen. It makes me nervous to see a friend of mine carrying their smartphones out of fancy cases designed to protect the glass from breakage.

A co-worker of mine recently got the latest iPhone — the 13 Pro Max — and for the first day or so, didn’t have it in any kind of protective case. I couldn’t do it. I’d be so paranoid about dropping it and cracking the screen that I’d be a wreck. Even though I have full coverage for repair if the screen should break, that doesn’t mean I want to make it easier to need that coverage.

How on earth, I thought, could they make a screen that you could actually fold in half? How would the stress of folding not damage the screen?

Those questions occurred to me after the obvious one: Why would you want to fold a smartphone in half? Sure, I had what they used to call a flip phone about 15 or more years ago. It was cool in a Star Trek communicator kind of way. But it wasn’t all screen. The bottom half was the keypad and the top half was the screen. The middle between the halves was just the hinge. There was no glass display to wear out.

Some customers are now reporting foldable smartphone screen trouble.

I certainly wasn’t surprised to stumble upon this article from BBC about the Samsung Galaxy Flip 3, a smartphone that users can fold in half.

Writer Zoe Kleinman describes it this way:

A couple of days ago the “fold” line suddenly got dramatically larger and turned silver, the lower half of the screen went green, the top half became unresponsive, and then an ominous black cloud began to spread around the screen.

I’ve heard of the “blue screen of death” in the world of computing. The “ominous black cloud” (of death) sounds even worse.

She reports dozens of customers saying they’ve had the same problem. One experienced some type of screen failure after just five hours, she said.

As she rightly points out, durability is the key to success in a foldable smartphone. How anyone can expect the stresses of folding a screen won’t make it fail over time is beyond me. That’s a lot of wear and tear. Call it a failure of imagination, but I just don’t see how they’d master a foldable screen that wouldn’t wear out from all the folding.

If you have to have a foldable screen for it to fit in your pocket, I’d suggest returning to a flip phone — they still make them, believe it or not — or find bigger pockets.

Sooner or later, you’re going to need an even bigger screen. Young folks have no idea how much fun they have in store for them when they hit their 40s: Hello, bifocals! Screens are only going to get bigger…until they find a way to implant a computer chip straight into our brains so we “see” data without a screen.

As screens get bigger, our pockets will simply have to follow suit.

the authorPatrick
Patrick is a Christian with more than 30 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.