The new category of foldable smartphone has just been introduced and so far, the two competitors are the Samsung Galaxy Fold and the Huawei Mate X. Let’s take a closer look at these two devices, what’s coming next and why you will care.
These two, new, folding smartphones sound similar, but there are many differences.
Samsung Galaxy Fold folding smartphone
The Samsung Galaxy Fold was first introduced the week before MWC19. The price is $1,980. It starts out as a 4G device and will be upgraded to 5G.. It’s an impressive design that can be used as a smartphone or unfolded as a tablet.
It has one smaller screen on the outside and a separate, larger screen on the inside. It has six cameras. Because of the hinge, this device won’t lay flat, but it may be easier to handle.
Huawei Mate X folding smartphone
The Huawei Mate X was introduced at MWC19. The price is roughly $2,600 and it has the same folding design. This is a 5G device from the start. It has one screen, whether it’s folded or open. It has four cameras.
This device lays flat because of the innovative hinge technology but may be harder to hold in one hand.
Until these two devices are out in the market, we won’t know all the details or how users will react to them. At this early stage I give these devices a thumbs up for innovation, the question is how they will sell in the marketplace?
I think initially, these folding screen smartphones will be interesting to everyone, but only one slice of the pie will purchase. Then as the price comes down and the initial bugs are worked out, that group will increase in size.
However, I believe this will still only be valuable to those who carry a smartphone and tablet everywhere. And that is a smaller sub-group of the people who carry a smartphone.
Smartphones prices have doubled in last year
Smartphones are rapidly rising in price. They started out at a few hundred dollars, but over the last year the prices have skyrocketed.
The Apple iPhone X introduced a year and a half ago, started this trend with prices over $1,000 for the basic smartphone. Samsung Galaxy followed with their new versions. This year, the newest smartphones are continuing to be priced at a premium.
Then, when I thought they were priced more than most would be willing or able to pay, the prices are doubling or more once again with these foldable smartphones.
Foldable smartphones make sense to a small slice of customer pie
On one hand these folding smartphones make sense. Rather than buying and carrying two devices, a smartphone and a tablet, the user can now carry a single device.
On the other hand, these foldable smartphones are larger, thicker and heavier than many want to carry. This means it is a poor substitute for the smartphone we are used to. Plus, the price is very high.
So, there are many pros and cons to these new devices. They are innovative and do create a new category. However, because of the size, weight and price the question is, will these really take off?
Will new Motorola Razr be marketed as folding smartphone?
The new Motorola Razr may be the next foldable smartphone, of sorts. This is the same design as the previous Razr, which was not really a smartphone. It was a flip-phone.
This time around, it could have the power and features of a smartphone, on the same folding handset. So, this is not in the same category as the Samsung or Huawei device, but may be marketed the same way.
I hear the price of this new Razr will be high as well. It could cost the user $1,500 – $2,000. That’s incredibly high for a regular wireless flip-phone. So, to justify the price, I think they will more than likely market this not only as a smartphone, but a folding smartphone.
Will Apple introduce a folding iPhone smartphone?
There will also be other entries into this arena. Will Apple introduce a folding smartphone? Can you imagine a folding iPhone? What about the others? Who knows? We’ll just have to wait and see what is coming next.
One way or another, this new folding smartphone sector will capture plenty of media and social media attention. Makers like Samsung, Huawei and Motorola will try and whip up the frenzy around these new devices. Things are going to start getting interesting again.
The first question I have is how many users will actually purchase these first-generation devices? I think they will be popular, but only among one slice of the pie. That slice will grow over time, but these will never be as ubiquitous as the iPhone or Android have become.
As an example, consider tablet sales. They are a sub-set of smartphone sales. Everyone who has a tablet, has a smartphone. But everyone who has a smartphone, does not have a tablet.
In this case, folding screen smartphones will be a subset of tablet owners. So, it’s a smaller group. However, expect this to get lots of media attention for the next few years. Only then will we know whether these new devices will stay in the market or not. So, stay tuned.
Jeff Kagan is an Equities.com columnist. Kagan is a Wireless Analyst, Telecom Analyst, Industry Analyst, speaker and consultant. He follows wireless, wire line, telecom, Internet, cable TV, IPTV, Cloud, Mobile Pay, FinTech and communications technology. Email him at [email protected]. His web site is www.jeffKAGAN.com. Follow him on Twitter @jeffkagan.