Everything old is new again. The flip phone is back, sort of. Now it's called a foldable phone, and they are here.
Samsung released details on its Galaxy Fold in February, bringing foldable phones out of early adoption and into the mainstream. The phone-tablet combo, which is scheduled to be released on April 26, is one of the first foldable phones to be released from a major company. Before Samsung released its version, the Royale Flexpai was the first foldable phone on the commercial market. Despite the wonder of the new technology, the Flexpai met with very skeptical reviews.
In addition to Samsung's release, Huawei, TCL, Oppo and Xiaomi all intend to release foldable phones within the near future. Lenovo, ZTE and LG have made similar announcements. Apple is also rumored to be working on a foldable phone that will be ready in two years. Even Energizer may get in on the fun. With all this movement in the foldable phone market, it's worth asking if foldable phones are an ideal tool for small business.
Features and usability
The foldable phone is one of the first journeys into device consolidation. As technology has expanded, it's not uncommon for the average consumer to have at least three devices – often a laptop or desktop, a tablet and a smartphone. The foldable phone looks to solve that headache by combining a smartphone and a tablet into one device. For the modern small business owner, smartphones and tablets are vital tools to communicate with employees, plan projects and stay connected while you're working at (or on) your business. A foldable phone, in theory, could prove to be a versatile tool. [Interested in buying a business smartphone? Check out this buying guide.]
We'll focus on the Samsung Galaxy Fold, since it's scheduled for release in late April 2019. The device features a 7.3-inch screen in tablet mode and a 4.6-inch screen in smartphone mode. For comparison, the iPhone XS' screen is 5.8 inches, and the iPad Pro has an 11-inch screen. It should also be noted that the Galaxy Fold has larger bezels on the sides compared to other tablets on the market.
The folding action is straight down the center of the tablet – you'll fold the Galaxy Fold in half and then use the back-left screen for smartphone mode. This makes for what looks like a thick, somewhat clunky smartphone experience. The screen also won't be made of glass (since that isn't bendable) and will instead feature a polymer that Samsung has said can be flexed 200,000 times. But, some phone reviewers out there are reporting that their models are breaking after a day or two.
Is it good for business?
As always, that depends mainly on what you need it for. One thing to note about foldable phones, however, is they're expensive. Samsung's Galaxy Fold will start at $1,980. That's a lot of money for a piece of early technology that may not be as effective or elegant as, say, an iPhone and an iPad. Huawei's foldable phone will be priced at $2,600. Both these price points make a foldable phone a huge investment for a small business.
Both are Android devices, so if you're all in on Apple's iOS operating system, these may not be the phones for your small business. Also, it is still too early to say what the actual battery life will look like on these screen-heavy devices. If long battery life is important to you, you may want to hold off until more data is available.
For a piece of technology that's still in its early stages, small businesses are likely better off lugging around both a smartphone and a tablet to ensure the job gets done. While the Galaxy Fold can work with Samsung DeX and be extended into a desktop experience, there aren't a lot of marquee business features on these devices. The main draw seems to be the duality of the device, which could make sense for some small business owners looking to shell out around $2,000 for early tech.
It seems like it's still too early to make a call on the current quality and future prospect of foldable phones. While many companies are racing to release a good product, it's not clear whether this technology makes sense for even consumers, let alone business owners. Unless you have an extra couple thousand dollars lying around, it's likely best to wait to see how (or if) this technology develops into something worth the price tag.