Samsung recently announced that they’ll be releasing a ‘folding’ smartphone later this year – the Samsung Galaxy S10 Fold. Not only is this a massive step into the next phase of smartphone development, it could be the beginnings of a technological trend. But the Samsung Galaxy S10 isn’t the first folding phone to ever hit the market, and it certainly won’t be the last. So, let’s look at the long evolution of ‘folding’ phones, from the clamshell design, to improved, modern smartphones.
More affectionately known as the ‘flip phone’, the clamshell design was used in a majority of early mobile phone designs. It was initially popularised by Motorola, with the most famous model of this type being the 2004 RAZR. However, the design was adopted by Nokia in the late 90s. The Nokia 9000 – the precursor to the beloved Nokia 3310 – had a unique clamshell design, with the hinge on the side so that the device opened horizontally. However, it did not adopt the ‘traditional’ clamshell look until the early 2000s.
Clamshell mobile designs were popular for a variety of reasons, but the most important was that it allowed devices to be compact, without losing power or screen size. Early mobiles required bigger housings for batteries and processors, which detracted from the ‘mobile’ part of their name. With a clamshell design, the screen, keypad, and battery could be compacted into a pocket-sized device.
The Late Flip Phones
Despite the clamshell design falling out of fashion when the initial smartphones were introduced in 2007, it didn’t stop some manufacturers trying to reinvent the wheel. One of the established mobile phone companies that tried was Motorola with the Flipout – a unique smartphone design that featured a touchscreen and a keyboard that flipped out from behind the screen. Needless to say, the phone wasn’t received very well, and Motorola were eventually bought out by Google in 2012.
Samsung Galaxy S10 Fold
While Samsung have been committed to producing traditional high-quality smartphones, they have not been averse to trying new ideas. At their recent launch event for the Galaxy S10 – the flagship model for 2019 – Samsung announced that they will be bringing a truly folding phone to market before their competitors.
The Galaxy S10 Fold has a 4.6-inch display which ‘folds out’ to become a 7.3-inch widescreen display, allowing for better visuals for gaming, videos and apps. It also offers increased functionality to the user, such as the ability to use multiple apps at once. In order to meet the demands of the device, the S10 Fold has a whopping 12GBs of RAM, as well as a 4,380mAh battery, making it much more powerful than other smartphones on the market.
In order to achieve this folding effect, Samsung have moved away from traditional OLED screens, which are made of glass and, while malleable to a point, cannot sustain the sort of pressure required to make the screen fully foldable. Instead, Samsung have turned to plastic as a suitable substrate material for their folding screen. Not only does this allow the device to function as intended, but it’s less brittle than glass, meaning that the risk of cracking is reduced. Even so, you still might want to invest in Galaxy S10 Fold insurance, just in case.
Huawei Mate X
When it rains, it pours! Not to be undone by a rival, Huawei have also announced that they will be bringing a folding smartphone to market in 2019. The device has a very similar design to the Galaxy S10 Fold, with a single-screen form than opens up, like a book, into a larger, tablet-sized device.
In its non-folded form, the Mate X has a 4.6-inch screen, which transforms into 7.3 inches once opened – the same dimensions as the Galaxy S10 Fold. The difference is in the power and technology behind the design. Huawei have confirmed that their folding phone will have 8GBs of RAM and 512GBs of storage, which is slightly less powerful than Samsung’s version. However, unlike Samsung, Huawei have given an indication of price, stating that the Mate X will cost around £1995 upon release. If this turns out to be correct, it’s likely that Samsung will charge something similar (if not more) for the Galaxy S10 Fold.
Throughout the years we can see a clear evolution in ‘folding’ phones, from the humble clamshell to the latest leaps in technology. And if the Galaxy S10 Fold and Mate X are big hits, we could see folding phones coming back into fashion in a big way!