Android Phones

Why buy a foldable phone?

Will your next phone be foldable? Well, there’s a less than zero possibility, now that a handful of folding smartphones are on the market. 

This is especially true considering the extraordinary price tags. The original Samsung Galaxy Fold cost £1,900, while the Motorola Razr started out with packages costing at least £94 per month with £100 upfront. Surprisingly, the Galaxy Z Fold 2 goes for £100 less than its predecessor, but it’s still a whopping £1799 on the Samsung store.

So given the prices are sky high, there’s one question that keeps coming up: why buy a foldable phone?

Why buy a foldable phone?

The concept behind a foldable phone is actually surprisingly practical: portability. There are two current design types, one of them more practical than the other.

The first is the Samsung Galaxy Fold-style design. Here, a regular sized phone opens up to reveal a tablet on the inside. The advantage here should be obvious: it’s a two-in-one phone and tablet. Text, make calls and snap photos with it closed, then open it up to play games, watch Netflix or do work in a less fiddly fashion. All with a device that fits neatly in your pocket.

The second implementation is harder to explain the appeal of, but the principal is the same. Here the phone folds on its X axis, opening up from a small square into a regular sized phone – think the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip or the Moto Razr. It’s certainly more compact than a regular phone, but not by a great deal – and to me, I can’t help but feel the design is more style than substance.

Are foldable phones stupid?

I wouldn’t go that far. But if you’re buying a foldable phone in 2020, then there’s certainly an argument that you have more money than sense – or are at least wealthy enough for the spend not to be an issue. 

That’s chiefly – but not exclusively – down to the price. If you’re buying a folding phone this year, then you’ll be paying upwards of £1,300 for the privilege. And in terms of the internals and day-to-day performance of the phone, you can get equivalent, or in some cases better, but spending less money.

The Moto Razr, for example, rightly took a kicking for its SIM-free price of €1,599 (~£1,442) when it was powered by the mid-range Qualcomm Snapdragon 710 processor. Similar specs could be found in the Realme 3 Pro – a handset that cost around £219 at the time. To be entirely fair, Samsung’s foldables do have cutting edge internals in them – but even then, similar phones are available in the £500 to £1,000 price bracket. 

This isn’t to say there’s not a fair case for paying for innovation and the huge R&D costs that have been sunk into a product – but on that note, there are also reliability questions to answer. 

The original Galaxy Fold needed to be delayed after a number of journalists’ review units broke within days. Samsung revised the design, and things have been relatively quiet, but it’s worth nothing that phone companies only promise a certain number of lifetime screen folds and both Samsung and Motorola have fallen short of their estimates in lab tests

No disrespect intended to either company: making a screen that folds in half repeatedly is hard. But at the same time you have to ask yourself whether the benefits of being at the cutting edge of this technology are worth the risks and high cost of entry. 

To me, the answer is obvious: no.

About the author

Alan Martin

Alan has been writing about tech professionally for a decade, and answering tech questions to family members on a voluntary basis for even longer. That should make him an ideal fit for Big Tech Question, then...

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  • I’d buy one if it were bigger. The wish I had was to still maintain the regular phone factor but when unfolded, its as big as a tablet like Huawei MediaPad. But I can figure out that whoever designed this was to maintain portability (fitting inside a pocket test) to pass when folded. Not sure about weight or thickness of the folded phone when doing so but here’s to hoping that they make better forms and folded design in the near future.