The year 2021 is coming to an end. And it’s time that we reminiscence over the most noteworthy developments of the year. While a lot has happened in the past one year – 5G smartphones became more accessible, Facebook became Meta, NFTs gained popularity – one development that stands out among others is the rise of the foldable display smartphones. Also Read - OnePlus 9RT vs Xiaomi 11T Pro: Battle of the flagships
In 2021, foldable display smartphones entered the mainstream smartphone market. What seemed like a gizmo for few, became more accessible and a tad bit more reliable too. All of this helped the foldable display smartphones or ‘foldables’ as they are conveniently called to gain acceptance among the wider user base and not just the tech enthusiasts. Also Read - Oppo Reno 7 Pro key details revealed, will offer advanced camera feature
A part of the credit for this transition goes to companies like Samsung, Huawei and Motorola that have dared to do something that most smartphone makers – even the ones with the right set of tools like LG – haven’t been able to do. They normalised the concept of a foldable display smartphone. Generation after generation, these companies helped in building a trust factor among the smartphone users that is critical for any new product to succeed. Also Read - Samsung Galaxy M33 5G India launch likely next month: Launch date, specifications, price and more
About the foldables in the market right now
Huawei has a total of four foldable display smartphones in its portfolio. The company forayed in this category with the launch of the Huawei Mate X with a notebook-like design back in February 2019. Ever since then, it has been launching yearly updates to its Mate series. It launched the Huawei Mate Xs in February 2020 and the Huawei Mate X2 in February this year. More recently, Huawei launched the Huawei P50 Pocket with a clamshell design, something on the heels of Samsung’s Galaxy Z Flip 3 smartphone.
Samsung, on the other hand, has a total of six foldables in its portfolio. The company launched its first foldable display smartphone with a notebook design – Samsung Galaxy Fold – in the same month Huawei launched Mate X. The following year, the Korean smartphone maker launched the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 as a successor to its first-gen foldable smartphone. It also launched Samsung Galaxy Z Flip and Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5G foldable display smartphones with a clamshell design the same year. Then this year, Samsung formalised its two foldable display smartphone series by launching the Galaxy Z Fold 3 and the Galaxy Z Flip 3 smartphones.
Just like Huawei and Samsung, Motorola launched its first foldable display smartphone – Motorola Razr – in 2019. It’s second-generation foldable display smartphone – Motorola Razr 5G – arrived the following year in 2020.
But Huawei, Motorola and Samsung are not the only ones that launched foldable display smartphones this year. The year 2021 witnessed two new entrants in the foldables market. First is Xiaomi, which launched the Mi Mix Fold, and Oppo, which launched the Oppo Find N, earlier this month.
What works in their favour?
Foldable display smartphones – irrespective of the company or the design – have come a long way since their first iteration arrived in 2019. In that way, the year 2019 was important, as it marked the first step and probably the most important step towards turning a concept into a reality. Sure, some of the first foldable smartphones, Galaxy Fold that is, was riddled with issues. But there were important lessons to be learnt, not just for Samsung but for other smartphone makers as well.
Over the years, however few they might have been, smartphone makers have refined their designs and smoothened out the flaws while adding new features and functionalities to the mix. Not that just, they have also started jazzing up their devices by tweaking the design a bit. The gold variant of the Huawei P50 Pocket, for instance, features an emboss design with a circular secondary design. All of these factors – design improvements, incremental updates, and ironing out the issues – make foldable display smartphones a lucrative proposition, at least to those who can afford them.
Why 2021 is important?
The year 2021, just like 2019, has been an important one in the short history of foldable display smartphones. In 2021, we saw foldable display smartphones becoming a tad bit more affordable owing to the introduction of the clamshell design. For reference, the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 costs Rs 84,999 in India.
We also saw design evolution in the foldables launched this year. But more important factors are consistency and changes in direction that companies have displayed this year that have had a reassuring impact on the users and in turn helped the foldable display smartphones gain acceptances among the masses. Samsung, for instance, launched Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Galaxy Z Flip 3 in August this year – a time when it typically launches its flagship Note series smartphones. The company’s Note series, on the other hand, is tipped to be a dead-man now.
The challenges ahead
That said, the era of foldable display smartphones isn’t here yet. Foldables have a long way to go right now if they want to be taken more seriously by the masses. Firstly, smartphone makers need to make them more affordable, something on the lines of their premium budget smartphones. Not everyone wants to buy a smartphone that costs more than their PCs.
The second and perhaps the most important challenge is availability. At the moment, Samsung and Motorola are the only two smartphone makers that are making their entire foldables portfolio available in India and elsewhere around the world. Companies like Oppo and Xiaomi have launched foldable display smartphones but they aren’t available outside their home country.
Then of course, there are reservations about its durability. Granted they are being resolved with every iteration that is launched, yet more awareness needs to be created to help people get over their initial inhibitions.