Think about it. We’ve been using Windows with large screens almost all our life. It still remains the most popular desktop/laptop OS, used by people of all ages, and even though Google’s ChromeOS and Apple’s MacOS are strong contenders, there’s a certain framework that Windows uses that’s universal. A start button and taskbar at the bottom, files and folders appearing as windows that can be minimized and maximized, and a screen that’s conducive to power-usage and multitasking. Windows is the perfect big-screen OS for small or large jobs, and for complicated work as well as basic web browsing.
When you think of folding phones, the first use case that comes to mind is multitasking… a feature that mobile OS’s haven’t really enabled well enough. I still don’t know how to use apps in split-screen in Android, and even though I sort of know my way around iOS, I rarely see myself multitasking, even on my iPad. On my laptop, it happens without me even thinking or knowing. I’ve got Chrome open, but also a folder open in the background, a notes app on my desktop, and photoshop minimized, ready to be used. The estate provided by a large screen just makes things easier, and the Windows OS really enables this in a way that’s so easy to use, it gets taken for granted.
Now when you look at Microsoft’s vision of a folding phone, like the Surface Note concept shown below (also referred to as Project Andromeda by Microsoft), you’ll instantly realize that it’s running Windows (albeit in tablet mode), rather than a mobile OS built for screens no larger than 6 inches. The OS replicates the familiar desktop experience that actually makes a large screen useful. Fold the Surface Note in half when you need a phone (the OS is still perfectly useful), and open it into its larger format to use multiple apps together. The process feels incredibly natural, given how familiar we are with the Windows OS, and the larger screen’s functionality is further extended with the presence of the Surface Stylus. The stylus is even allowed to be carried ‘inside’ the Surface by simply wedging it in like a bookmark (although I’d probably be very concerned about damaging that display). Microsoft still seems to be working on developing their super-secret folding gadget, although people HAVE discovered several patents online. Personally, this could honestly be a pretty big deal for Microsoft. Whether you like it or not, they’ve had the monopoly on large-screen operating-systems meant for power-users all along. Android and iOS may be at a genuine disadvantage here, because their OS wasn’t developed for full-featured multitasking… Windows for desktop and tablet, on the other hand, has. If they can manage to deliver on a device that allows you to carry that large-screen (and its world of functionality) in your pocket, that’s just an incredible win for the company, and the OS!
Designer: Ryan Smalley
As of now, we stand at a rather interesting junction. Samsung, Huawei, Apple. These three companies are the largest manufacturers of phones, and up until now, the leading two were playing catch-up to Apple in terms of innovative design. With Huawei’s Mate X, we can officially say that the two companies have finally moved onto bigger, more different things. Following Samsung’s Galaxy Fold launch, the Mate X is the world’s second-biggest smartphone maker’s attempt at folding phones.
The Mate X features a display that’s slightly different from Samsung’s Galaxy Fold. In the Galaxy Fold, you’ve got a flexible screen that folds inwards, hiding from view when closed. The Mate X does the opposite. The screen bends outwards, splitting into two when the phone is closed. Measuring 6.6″ on the back, 6.38″ on the front, and 8″ in total when unfolded, the phone is essentially a phablet when opened up, and a regular, albeit thick, smartphone when closed. It features a triple Leica camera layout that’s embedded in the phone’s thick side notch (not a bezel notch, but rather a thick spine), a fingerprint sensor embedded in the power button, 8Gb RAM, 512Gb internal storage, a 4,500mAh battery, and also comes with 5G connectivity, something Huawei has positioned itself to be a pioneer in.
I doubt these phones will make a dent in iPhone sales, given that they cost double of what the iPhone costs, but it does raise a significant question. What’s Apple’s next move? And more importantly, are flexible displays even going to catch on?? The burning question in my head remains “how do I put a screen protector or a case on these phones?”
The pun was just begging to happen. Unfolding the future. Ha! But wordplay aside, look at this gorgeous beauty that Samsung calls the Galaxy Fold. Launched barely an hour ago, this is the future of smartphone design, as dictated by the biggest smartphone manufacturer in the world. It doesn’t just have a flexible screen, it has TWO screens, a beautiful colored metallic back with a lovely spine of a complementing/contrasting color, and six cameras… Three on the outer back panel, one on the outer front panel, and two on the inside laid out in an asymmetric notch on the top right corner of the screen.
The phone sports two gorgeous displays no doubt, given that Samsung is the pioneer in display technology. You’ve got a slick 4.58-inch, 1960×840 OLED panel on the outside, serving as a traditional display when the phone is closed, and a gorgeous 7.3-inch, 2152×1536 resolution display on the inside, giving the phone an iPad Mini feel.However, since the phone folds in half, you’ve essentially got a phablet that you can easily slide into your pocket and carry around with you. The phone lacks a fingerprint sensor, but packs USB-C charging and comes in both LTE and 5G variants across a variety of colors that just accentuate the phone’s beautiful butterfly design.
This right here is the breath of fresh air we’ve been waiting for. With phones trying really hard to be different but not getting anywhere by sticking to the decade-plus-old candybar format, the market has been pining for something bold and beautiful… and the Galaxy Fold might just be it. The phone should be available by the end of April this year according to Samsung, and even though it sports a hefty price tag of $1980, it’s just natural, given that flexible screens haven’t become democratized or cheap yet. However, this is surely a milestone moment for smartphones. Great job, Samsung… You’ve piqued everyone’s interest! And that too on the 10th anniversary of the Galaxy smartphone!