How the Galaxy Z Fold 4 and Galaxy Z Flip 4 Design is Better


Samsung’s cat is finally out of the bag. That cat has actually been out of the bag for a long while now, thanks to the almost merciless flood of leaks and unofficial information. Needless to say, the Galaxy Z Fold 4 and Galaxy Z Flip 4, the company’s latest generation of foldable phones, turned out to be exactly what those rumors made them out to be, which is a mixed bag for many Samsung fans. Given the fast-paced dynamics of the smartphone market, it’s not surprising that some already set their expectations low that these two would knock anyone’s socks off. At the same time, however, the two surpass their predecessors in more than just specs but also as an assurance of a more reliable future.

Designer: Samsung

In the smartphone industry, if you’re not putting out a sensational new phone every year or even every six months, you’re seen as stagnating and on the way out. That may have been true for the first decade of smartphones, but keeping up that pace without pause is becoming more of a liability than an asset. Smartphone demand and sales have slowed down, and people are now looking for long-term reliability more than fancy gimmicks and new features. While that doesn’t exactly mean that smartphone makers have to put innovation on hold, it does tell them to take a deep breath and focus on refining what already works to perfection instead, which is what Samsung seems to have done this year.

Galaxy Z Fold 4: Iteration Wins the Day

If taken in isolation, the Galaxy Z Fold 4 looks no different than the Galaxy Z Fold 3 last year. It’s only when you put the two side-by-side will you notice any difference, but even then, those differences are subtle. The hinge is slightly smaller, and the bezels around the displays are narrower. Numbers alone, however, won’t do it justice, and you need to take those changes into context to appreciate the refinements that Samsung has made.

In a nutshell, the Galaxy Z Fold 4 is easier to use in so many ways. It is a bit lighter and easier to hold in one’s hand, and the external Cover Screen is wider, so it doesn’t feel that cramped anymore. Parts of the user interface have been revised to make the phone easier to use as a tablet, thanks in part to the Android 12L update. There are no groundbreaking changes in design, just fixes that address some of the biggest pain points of this kind of smartphone.

One can’t ignore the massive changes inside as well, and not just the latest Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 processor. At long last, the cameras have been given an upgrade, with a 50MP main camera leading the fray alongside a 10MP telephoto with a longer 3x zoom reach. As a tool for creativity and for keeping memories, the Galaxy Z Fold 4 steps up to the challenge, even though it might still disappoint serious mobile photographers. The 4MP camera that hides under the display is now less visible, but its ghost is still there. It remains to be seen whether it has significantly improved this year.

Galaxy Z Flip 4: Smartphones are Lifestyle Choices

Samsung’s more affordable foldable clamshell also has its share of incremental improvements. Some of the changes are more pronounced, the light flatter edges and hazed back glass cover. The outer Cover Screen is also now larger, which means you can do more with it or at least see more information from it. With this more stylish phone, however, Samsung has given the Galaxy Z Flip 4 a different flavor, making it a vehicle of self-expression that smartphones have become in the past few years.

Clamshell phones, though now archaic, were once considered to be stylish and posh. The crisp clicking sound they make when you open or close them really calls attention, and the way you can do that with a single hand sends a message of sophistication and class. While the latter might not be easily doable with these foldable phones, the Galaxy Z Flip 4 still has that air luxury carried over from the old days. Fortunately, Samsung knows well to play up that image.

In addition to the design and hardware improvements that it made, Samsung is spinning the Galaxy Z Flip 4 as something made to be personalized and personal, from the available color choices to the customization options in terms of themes. New camera features are also geared towards people who love to show off and express themselves on social media, no matter their age. More than just a refinement in design, the Galaxy Z Flip 4 is a refinement in purpose, sending a clear message that it isn’t just for people who want the latest and greatest smartphone technologies but also for those who view phones as a part of their personality.

Galaxy Watch5 Pro and Galaxy Buds2 Pro: Pint-sized Improvements

Samsung also announced devices other than foldable phones at its unpacked event, and they might ironically be more interesting as far as significant upgrades go. The Galaxy Watch 5, for example, introduces a new “Pro” model for people who like to live life to the extreme. The Galaxy Buds 2 Pro, on the other hand, introduces a slightly different design as well as new features. Neither, however, changes the formula completely in ways so different from their predecessors.

The Galaxy Watch 5 admittedly deviates a bit from previous Samsung smartwatches by ditching the rotating bezel that was once a staple of this line. The Galaxy Watch 5 Pro takes the game to a new level with a protruding bezel that is almost nonexistent among most smartwatches, even the sportier ones. At the end of the day, however, these are just variations of the existing Galaxy Watch design language, providing a product that is new yet also familiar, inspiring confidence that most things are still the same.

The Galaxy Buds 2 Pro also changes the design a bit, embracing a smaller form that is promised to actually provide a more secure fit. Its headlining features, however, include support for Hi-Fi 24-bit audio and high-quality music. It doesn’t stray too far from the first Galaxy Buds Pro’s form, though, which is a bit of a surprise since Samsung has changed its design for almost every new earbuds. It finally seems that it has found a winning design formula and is sticking to it, at least for now.

Moving Forward

Stability almost has a negative connotation in the smartphone industry, at least when it comes to design and appearances. If you’re not showing off something entirely new and head-turning, you’re as good as dead. That’s no longer the case these days, though, as more and more smartphone manufacturers stick to a design for another generation or two. Rather than seeing it as a sign of stagnation, however, it should be taken as evidence of maturity.

Living things tend to slow down their rapid growth rate once they hit an age of maturity, and products also start to change less once people stumble upon the perfect combination. While the doors are still wide open for innovation in smartphones, they no longer need to happen every six months. People are now looking for products and designs that they can rely on, not one that changes drastically every year. Smartphones still need to improve, but they don’t need to make leaps with every new model.

This doesn’t mean that Samsung’s job is done. Far from it, the Galaxy Z Fold, in particular, still has a long way to go toward perfection. It still needs to be able to fold flat, its crease needs to be less visible, the S Pen needs a silo inside, and the cameras have yet to reach the same level as Samsung’s own Galaxy S flagship line. It could have brought all of that this year, presuming it already had the pieces ready, but it chose to create a calmer and more sensible atmosphere with the Galaxy Z Fold 4’s and Galaxy Z Flip 4’s launch. Armed with incremental refinements and a clearer direction, Samsung is trying to send a message that its foldable phones aren’t just a passing fad and that it’s here for the long haul.

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This giant TV folds and transforms into sculptural art when not in use

Rollable TVs try to get out of your way when you don’t need them, but this TV really wants to make its presence felt no matter what.

TVs are undergoing a shift, one that’s possibly much more significant than curved screens. Once simply seen as entertainment hardware, TVs are turning into decorative pieces or, in some cases, becoming invisible. The rollable TVs that LG is pushing are designed to be out of sight in their dormant state, but some manufacturers, including LG and Samsung, are turning them into furniture that could also be used as decor to liven up a room. This has opened a new avenue for TV manufacturers to explore and differentiate, and one, in particular, seems to be taking that potential to the extreme with a huge television set that folds down into some semblance of an art piece designed to call everyone’s attention.

Designer: C SEED

No, this isn’t a foldable TV in the sense of a foldable phone like a Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3. While the display does collapse and expand like an accordion, the C SEED N1 is actually made up of five distinct panels that together form a single picture. Whether you’ll be able to make out the seams while watching TV will probably depend on your proximity to the screen, but the cutting-edge 4K MicroLED display promises to offer enough distractions for you to even notice those lines. The TV comes in size options of 103, 137, and 165 inches, ensuring that the C SEED N1 is really the center of attraction when it’s in use.

It remains a visual focal point, however, even when it isn’t in active use and folded down. After the screen collapses on itself, the TV slowly lowers itself down, pivoting on its stand to form a long metallic structure reminiscent of a bench. You wouldn’t want to sit on it, of course, even though it’s made from aerospace-grade aluminum.

Some might take issue with how the TV manufacturer describes the TV’s folded form as having sculptural quality, but there’s no argument that it definitely looks stylish in that state. That said, the C SEED N1 isn’t just a form of art in its passive form but also has an element of kinetic art whenever it switches from art piece to entertainment system. The TV’s slow yet smooth movement almost seems to defy the laws of physics, given the weight and stiffness of its body.

The C SEED N1 does take up a lot of space, whether it’s folded down or standing up, thanks to that metal base. It can rotate 180 degrees left or right, though, so there’s some flexibility available when it comes to setting it up in a room. The biggest dealbreaker will, of course, be the price. For something as avant-garde as this, you can’t really expect this to be anything but expensive, and the $190,000 starting price is a testament to that.

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This spaceship-like device is actually a sustainable high bay light

We often take for granted the lighting that lets us see in the dark or sets the mood in enclosed spaces like homes and halls. Not only do we seldom pay attention to their actual design, we also rarely consider the materials they’re made of. To be fair, we do that with almost every consumer product, but lamps and lights are some of the most common products we buy. Fortunately, they are also some of the easiest products to rethink and redesign. The RAB L34, for example, gives high bay lighting a more compact and space-efficient form, and in doing so, also gives it a distinct design that seems to come straight out of sci-fi space portals and alien ships.

Designer: Glen Oross, Peter On

Most of us probably don’t think much about high bay lights compared to other forms of lighting. Being way up there, they don’t often have the chance to shine, no pun intended, in terms of visual appeal. Almost like a typical bulb, they’re seen as simple, functional products you don’t need to spend too much time on since few people look at them anyway. Unfortunately, that seems to be used as an excuse to skimp not only on design but most especially on the materials.

RAB Lighting throws conventional industry practices out the window and focuses on sustainability and product optimization. Those two goals work together in creating the L34, a high bay light whose compact design not only optimizes the space that the fixture uses but also shrinks the packaging. This has a domino effect where space savings translates into savings in materials and costs, creating a more economical and resource-conscious product.

The secret to the RAB L34 is its collapsing wing design, two articulating panels that house the LEDs on either side of the main body. When retracted, the L34 has a more compact shape which reduces the space and materials needed when packaging and shipping the high bay light. Adjusting the wing angles also allows the light to target specific areas, reducing the number of lights needed to fill up a space.

 

This, however, isn’t the only way that the bay light is sustainable. RAB also boasts that the L34 is made with up to 30% re-melted plastic that’s leftover from producing other products. The LEDs also don’t have plastic lens covers, further reducing not only the amount of plastic used but even the energy consumed in manufacturing the lights. It would be even better if the entire body is made from 100% recycled plastics, but every little bit helps, especially if the figure rises over time.

Although it isn’t breathtaking in a visual sense, the RAB L34 high bay lighting is a good example of how even simple redesigns can have a ripple effect on improving a product’s sustainability and performance. To some extent, that redesign also gives the bay light a rather distinctive form, as if suggesting that this is the lighting of the future. And when it comes to sustainability, it could very well be one.

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Huawei P50 Pocket Foldable Phone Review: Beautiful Symmetry of Tech and Art

PROS:


  • Stylish and elegant design

  • Crease-free hinge folds the phone flat

  • Impressive performance and camera output

CONS:


  • No formal IP dust and resistance rating

RATINGS:

AESTHETICS
ERGONOMICS
PERFORMANCE
VALUE FOR MONEY

EDITOR'S QUOTE:

The Huawei P50 Pocket masterfully embodies the symphony of art and technology in a design that perfectly marries form and function.

Beauty and power that fits in the palm of your hand, literally.

Smartphones are, at their heart, computing devices, but thanks to advancements in technology, manufacturing, and design, manufacturers are free to go beyond utilitarian purposes. These gadgets have, in fact, become so ingrained in our lives that they are now almost an extension of ourselves. They have become expressions of our personalities and uniqueness, reflecting tastes, passions, aspirations, and perception. We are now in an age where the design of a smartphone is becoming more than just a marketing point but a critical part of a buyer’s decision-making process. Sometimes, the things that people want are on opposing sides: large screen but pocket-friendly, luxurious but affordable, powerful but uncomplicated. It’s a delicate balancing act that very few smartphone makers have managed to achieve but which the Huawei P50 Pocket manages with the grace of royalty.

Designer: Huawei and Iris van Herpen

Aesthetics

We’ve seen our fair share of luxury phones, particularly from companies whose business revolves around coating regular smartphones with extravagant pieces and designs. To say that those often look gaudy and almost garish wouldn’t be an understatement. The Huawei P50 Pocket, the brand’s first foldable phone in clamshell form, is thankfully none of those, exuding a aura that is almost ethereal yet also sublime in its beauty.

The secret to the Huawei P50 Pocket is the symmetry that permeates its design, both in concept and in execution. As a phone, it folds horizontally exactly in half, resulting in a nearly perfect square device you can easily slip in and out of your pocket or bag. Each half of the phone is also symmetrical, aside from the presence of buttons, and the two circles on its cover form a perfectly balanced square.

You can both feel and see the balance all throughout the phone’s design and form, particularly with the Premium Gold edition. Gold is not something you would easily come by in nature, often used as a product of mechanical and artificial processes. It is often a symbol of affluence and the power of technology, like the technology that is used to engrave 3D micro patterns on glass. Yet at the same time, the delicate and flowing patterns on the back of the phone resemble leaves and the irregularity of life. Designed in collaboration with famed haute couture designer Iris van Herpen, this motif represents a symbiosis, a balance and symmetry, between two seemingly opposing ideas, the power of cutting-edge technology and the artistic beauty of nature.

Even when the surface of the P50 Pocket’s surface is broken by two circles, there is still an unmistakable element of harmony and symphony. These two circles is a nod to the groundbreaking Huawei P9 that raised the company’s profile in the field of mobile photography. The two circles are perfectly identical in size yet also distinctly contrasting. One lies flush against the phone’s back, displaying vibrant colors and dynamic images. The other is mostly black and unchanging yet rises from the surface to put itself in focus, literally and figuratively as it houses the phone’s powerful cameras.

The Huawei P50 Pocket is truly a work of art but its elegance isn’t loud or overbearing. It conveys its presence in harmony and symmetry, both in shapes and in themes, pulling in opposites to dance on its surface in a delightful play for form and light, the latter thanks to Huawei’s innovative 3D micro-sculpture design that creates a unique double-sided 3D design. And just as important, it also brings that balance that smartphone users need, delivering a powerful piece of technology that looks stylish, especially when they fold it close and slip it into their pocket in style.

Ergonomics

A well-designed smartphone shouldn’t just be a beauty to behold but also to hold. As a tool that you will use day in and day out, fold and unfold multiple times a day, a foldable phone such as this needs to be comfortable to use and inspire confidence in its longevity. In other words, ergonomics also plays a critical role, and, fortunately, the Huawei P50 Pocket doesn’t disappoint here either.

The point of a foldable phone, particularly a clamshell phone, is to enhance the device’s portability without sacrificing its usefulness. Thanks to the P50 Pocket’s slim profile and foldable design, it does exactly that, whether it’s opened or closed. When unfolded, its lightweight and slender body won’t weigh your hand down, though some might prefer holding it with two hands, just like any phablet these days. When folded shut, the P50 Pocket is a glamorous pocket device that you can still be able to use, thanks to that Cover Screen beneath the camera island.

Opening and closing the phone is something you will naturally do multiple times a day, and there’s no reason to be worried about the hinge giving out, which we will get to in a bit. Suffice it to say, the hinge is strong and gives a satisfying feeling whenever you fold and unfold the phone. While it is certainly possible to do those actions using only one hand, some people might find it difficult or a bit worrying. To open the phone with one hand, you’ll have to wedge your finger into that tight space in between the two halves, and some might be concerned that they will accidentally damage the foldable screen. To fold the phone closed, you might have to adjust your hand a bit to push down the top half, which could lead to some unfortunate accidents.

Fortunately, the phone isn’t as fragile as its luxurious appearance might suggest, and is made from durable materials all around. It doesn’t have a formal IP rating for dust and water resistance, but that doesn’t mean it will die at its first encounter with water. Huawei has taken measures to protect the phone from ingress, and might have decided that the expensive certification wasn’t worth the cost. Its glass back might make it feel slippery for some people, but its narrow frame also makes it easier to grip with your hand. Huawei also provides a clear case to offer added protection without hiding the P50 Pocket’s eye-catching visage.

Performance

Of course, the Huawei P50 Pocket isn’t just a fashion accessory. It is a smartphone that has to meet people’s needs when it comes to Web browsing, communication, social media, and even gaming. Huawei provides this foldable beauty with all the power to deliver that and then some. Given how lightweight and slim it is, it’s almost unbelievable that it manages to cram a 4,000 mAh battery inside. Don’t let the numbers fool you, it’s enough to get you through a day’s worth of use. And when you do need to reach for that charger, the fast 40W charging tech will minimize the downtime so you can be up and about your day as soon as possible.

While the phone’s intricate patterns and luxurious finish gives it its personality from the back, it’s the foldable screen that gives it its defining feature from the front. After all, what would a foldable phone be without a foldable screen. As one of the pioneers in this field, Huawei has been able to advance the technology and the design of flexible panels ahead of the competition. The result is a large and equally beautiful screen that brings delight and comfort to the eyes, whether you’re flicking through social media, watching your favorite shows, or simply reminiscing your last “revenge travel” experience. Best of all, that flexible screen barely shows any crease that tends to plague others of its kind.

That feat was made possible by Huawei’s newest Multi-Dimensional Hinge that creates that famed waterdrop-shaped cavity when the screen is folded. This is also the reason why, unlike other foldable clamshells, the P50 Pocket is able to fold completely flat without any gap. At the same time, a new Multi-Dimesnional Linkage Lifting design is responsible for elevating that part of the screen and remain flat without increasing the weight of the phone with unnecessary components. Watching the screen rise and fall is almost mesmerizing, and you don’t have to worry about doing it over and over again thanks to the use of Zirconium-based liquid metal and 2,100MPa Ultra-High Strength Steel to build the hinge, bringing both durability and reliability to the mechanism.

The hinge offers just enough resistance to avoid making it feel flimsy, but it won’t get in your way when using the phone. It doesn’t, however, support variable angles and will either fold shut or lie completely flat unless you leave it open at a right angle. This position is best for taking selfies or multi-tasking with a video, and it’s unlikely that there will be an important use for leaving the phone open at odd angles anyway.

Value

It’s hard to fully compare the Huawei P50 Pocket with other foldable phones, because while they share the same basic form and function, Huawei’s piece goes above and beyond being just a gadget that fits your pocket. At a time when smartphones have started looking alike and are becoming extensions of our own personalities, the P50 Pocket is both a statement and a testament to what these devices can and should be. It is, just like its overall design, a symphony of art and technology, one that you can proudly put on display and then fold and hide in your pocket.

It’s not inexpensive, mind, and there are other considerations beyond the scope of this review that may make or break people’s decisions. It is a rather weighty investment, one that is fortunately made to last a very long while. As far as design is concerned, with its definitely worth its weight in gold, even if you grab the equally elegant White edition with its shimmering diamond-inspired design.

Verdict

It’s hard to fully compare the Huawei P50 Pocket with other foldable phones, because while they share the same basic form and function, Huawei’s piece goes above and beyond being just a gadget that fits your pocket. At a time when smartphones have started looking alike and are becoming extensions of our own personalities, the P50 Pocket is both a statement and a testament to what these devices can and should be. It is, just like its overall design, a symphony of art and technology, one that you can proudly put on display and then fold and hide in your pocket.

It’s not inexpensive, mind, and there are other considerations beyond the scope of this review that may make or break people’s decisions. It is a rather weighty investment, one that is fortunately made to last a very long while. As far as design is concerned, with its definitely worth its weight in gold, even if you grab the equally elegant White edition with its shimmering diamond-inspired design.

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Samsung Display teases a future filled with foldable and slidable devices

We are so dependent on screens and displays these days, even just for looking at content. Most of the things we need to see every day are often displayed on computer monitors, TVs, and our phones. With more content and more data coming into our lives, it’s almost like we can’t have enough screens around us. In the somewhat distant future, every surface might indeed have a display, an interactive display even, but there are still plenty of technological and psychological hurdles before we get there. In the meantime, Samsung is more than happy to fill our world today with screens that can fold, roll, or even slide in order to give us as much display real estate as we need without forcing us to carry large backpacks or briefcases just to fit a 12-inch tablet.

Designer: Samsung

It isn’t time yet for a new foldable phone, but it’s Display Week 2022 in sunny San Jose, California, and Samsung isn’t going to miss out on the opportunity to show off what it has been cooking behind closed doors. Then again, some of these aren’t particularly new to our eyes, given how they’ve been prefigured by patents and even revealed by Samsung a few months ago. And given how these are already on display for the public to see, they’re more likely to arrive in the next few years rather than the next decades.

Fold it Your Way

Foldable phones are no longer alien to us now, but they’re still novel enough to be seen with some suspicion and apprehension. As marvelous as these may be from an engineering point of view, we’ve barely scratched the surface. Earlier this year, Samsung showed off its Flex G and Flex S foldable screens in action, and this week it’s reminding everyone who will listen to what these flexible displays can offer, presuming they actually become products.

The Flex G, for example, can either be a large screen that folds down twice into a more bag-friendly form, or it could be a makeshift laptop, with one-third of the screen as the keyboard and the other two-thirds for the display. The Flex S, on the other hand, can fold in opposite directions, forming a Z or S shape, and it’s easy enough to imagine it as a phone that transforms into a true tablet or vice versa. Both designs have been spotted before, both in patents and in prototypes, but Samsung might be more confident now to move forward and bring these displays to commercial products.

Let it Slide

The newest member of its gallery, however, is its “slidable” screens. Technically a combination of a sliding mechanism and a rollable display, this technology allows a device to expand its screen space without drastically changing the form of the device. A phone, for example, can remain a phone while its top slide out to show a bit more content. Given how tall smartphones are these days, that’s not exactly a big leap in form factors.

Similarly, an 8.1-inch tablet that suddenly has its sides slide out to expand to a 12.4-inch screen won’t drastically change the way you use the device. You just have more space for content or possibly more apps side-by-side. This kind of shape-shifting device might be a bit more approachable to consumers compared to foldables since it doesn’t require them to switch between modes or mindsets. Whether these are more robust than folding screens, however, remains to be seen.

For the Rest of Us

Truth be told, only a small fraction of today’s smartphone-using population has embraced foldables. There are a variety of reasons to hold off from those, with durability and price being the strongest deterrents. Until Samsung and other manufacturers have sufficiently addressed those concerns, foldables, rollables, slidables, and other -able displays will remain novelties and luxuries that could eventually die off as fads.

Of course, Samsung hasn’t completely forgotten about common people and has a few of its more normal but more usable innovations also on display, no pun intended. Amusingly, its latest QD-Display technology also stands as a testament to how technology, marketing, and even design go back and forth like a pendulum. The display market swings between LCD and OLED technologies every so often, sometimes with different marketing names and tweaks like MicroLED and Quantum Dots, in an attempt to get buyers’ attention and money. Samsung’s QD-Display TVs and monitors are just about to roll out to the public, so we’ll see soon enough what that buzz is all about.

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Huawei Mate Xs 2 reignites the foldable phone design

Almost every design has its pros and cons, but Huawei’s latest foldable phone makes it even harder to decide which fold is better.

When talking about foldable phones, it will be Samsung’s name that probably comes up the most. That’s partly because of marketing and party due to just having more foldable devices already available in the market at this point. It isn’t the only player, though, not by a long shot, and rival brands like OPPO and Vivo have started rising up to challenge its position. The disgraced Chinese brand Huawei, however, has been playing that game just as long as Samsung, and it has been pushing a different design to what is now regarded as the common fold. After seemingly giving up on that, the embattled company is returning to its roots with one small feature that could actually change the game for it.

Designer: Huawei

While many people probably imagine foldable phones to fold like books, which is how Samsung’s “innie” design works, it isn’t the only way to fold. In fact, it is the most inefficient way because of the many compromises it has to make. Such a device, for example, would be unusable when folded shut unless there’s a second display on the outside. It also requires that the folded area should have a gap, which means it doesn’t really fold flat without some tricks.

In contrast, the “outie” design that Huawei embraced addresses those problems, though it has issues of its own. You only need one screen, cutting down on costs, and you can fold the phone flat because there is already a natural curve on the outside of the screen. You can use the “back” main cameras for taking selfies without having to precariously hold the fragile phone. On the other hand, that sensitive, flexible display is always on the outside, always exposed to the elements and to whatever dangerous objects might pierce its softer material.

The Huawei Mate X2 last year ditched the outie design for Samsung’s innie, and it seemed that Samsung had won that debate. With the Mate Xs 2, however, Huawei is aiming for a rebound and has included one feature that makes the Galaxy Z Fold 3 look inept. Huawei’s latest foldable phone supports a stylus, but unlike Samsung’s version, it actually works whether the phone is open or folded.

With the Galaxy Z Fold 3, Samsung made the decision not to make the outer “Cover Screen” compatible with its special S Pen Fold Edition, mostly because it uses different technologies from its regular Galaxy Note phones. This meant that you’d have to open the phone first in order to use the stylus on the flexible display inside. Since it’s using the same screen anyway, the Huawei Mate Xs 2 doesn’t have to compromise on features just because it’s folded in half.

Whether that works in practice still remains to be seen, mostly because the Huawei Mate Xs 2 isn’t getting a wider rollout just yet. It’s currently being sold only in China, to the tune of $1,500, and there has been no word on a global release yet. Samsung will be launching the Galaxy Z Fold 4 in a few months as well, but early leaks and rumors don’t paint a very hopeful picture. We’re still far from that point where people don’t have to compromise or risk losing their investment in foldable phones, which means the device category still has a long way to go before becoming mainstream.

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Vivo X Fold tries to validate Samsung with a few tricks of its own

Foldable phones are on their way to becoming more prevalent and more mainstream, especially now that more brands are trying to jump on the bandwagon. Although Samsung, Huawei, and Xiaomi have long been playing that game, other companies need to join in to increase the visibility and accessibility of this new type of mobile device. A few more competitors also mean that there could be new ideas being tried, not to mention new pricing schemes that could make foldable phones more approachable. That’s what the OPPO Find N tried when it changed the design a bit, earning some positive responses. The Vivo X Fold, on the other hand, isn’t straying that far from Samsung’s design, but it is making improvements in where it matters the most.

Designer: Vivo

Old Design, New Perspective

After a brief period of experimentation, it seems that Samsung’s “innie” design has won the battle. Huawei eventually switched away from its outward folding or “outie” mechanism to something that resembles the Galaxy Z Fold. Of course, there are important differences that both OPPO and Vivo are also embracing, but the general consensus seems to be that foldable phones of this nature open and close like a book.

What some don’t agree on yet is how big these phones should be. The OPPO Find N challenged the status quo with a phone that is shorter than most foldable phones and wider when unfolded. This created a tablet-like experience where the full screen is laid out in landscape orientation, while the external screen remained useful when the phone was folded, unlike most of the complaints with the Galaxy Z Fold 3.

In contrast, the Vivo X Fold nearly matches Samsung’s foldable in size and design and is actually taller than it. Although it seems like a Samsung knock-off on the surface, the devil is in the details inside. Specifically, the Flexion hinge it uses is similar to the one that the OPPO Find N and the Huawei Mate X2 use, which would allow the phone to fold shut completely without any gap. It also reduces the visibility of the crease in the middle of the screen, though that can only be confirmed in real-world testing.

Specs Sometimes Matter

Vivo also does a few things that Samsung doesn’t seem to be interested in just yet, particularly when it comes to the cameras. The Vivo X Fold comes with a better set of four sensors, at least on paper, though some Samsung fans are hoping that the Galaxy Z Fold 4 will correct the flaws of its predecessor in this regard. If you are paying a high price for a smartphone, it’s understandable you’ll want to get the best out of it.

That said, those cameras do come with a bit of a cost, at least in terms of design. The Vivo X Fold’s camera bump is a large circle enclosed in an even larger reflective rectangle on the back of the phone. It is as “in your face” as it can get, though thankfully not in the same ridiculous proportions as the Honor Magic 4 Ultimate.

There’s also the presence of under-display fingerprint sensors, something that is common in most smartphones today except the foldable ones. Although Vivo could be lauded for taking the initiative, it also shows how wasteful such an implementation might be since you need to have two such fingerprint scanners, one underneath the main, foldable display and another on the secondary external screen. There are concepts and patents on how that can be reduced to a single “back-to-back” sensor, but the technology just isn’t there yet.

The Price is Right

One of the biggest reasons why people stay away from these foldable phones, aside from concerns over durability, is their exorbitantly high costs. Samsung tried to push down the figure last year, but it’s still beyond most people’s means. The OPPO Find N tried to offer a more reasonable price tag, and Vivo is doing the same, though with a bump that is justified by the features.

The Vivo X Fold is going for around $1,400, but its availability is limited to China, at least for now. That, unfortunately, means that Samsung still has almost no competition in the global market. With rumors about the Galaxy Z Fold 4 shaping up to be quite interesting, the company will undoubtedly still hold the top position in that niche. Still, it’s reassuring to see that there are other brands willing to challenge the giant in order to help diversify foldable phones.

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Blond Fold wireless charger checks all the boxes of great design and sustainability

Phone makers are cutting down on chargers in boxes, but third-party chargers are rising in number instead. Blond, fortunately, has a great idea on how to fix that problem as well.

One of the biggest sources of electronic waste in garbage dumps has been discovered to be smartphone chargers. According to the European Commission, about 11,000 tonnes or 11 million kg of unused or discarded chargers pile up every year. Figures and studies like these are often cited as reasons for imposing a common charging standard or removing charging bricks from phone packaging. That only addresses one part of the problem, though, because chargers are still being made and sold en masse anyway. The other part of the solution is to make the chargers themselves long-lasting and sustainable, which is what this innovative multi-functional wireless charging concept is trying to propose.

Designer: Blond

The Fold, no relation to Samsung’s foldable phones, immediately strikes one as a handsome piece of tech. Blending minimalism and transparency, the foldable wireless charger makes no qualms about its geeky nature. In fact, it invites people to peer into its very soul, and some might even have to dig deep into it in order to repair the accessory over time.

Creative design studio Blond’s concept for this wireless charger is notable in more ways than one. More than just portable, thanks to its foldable design, the charger can be used in multiple ways as well. For example, it can juice up three devices all at once, but it can also act as a smartphone stand when folded in a certain way.

Its most ambitious feature, however, is its longevity. Unlike most consumer electronics, the Fold is designed to be easy to open up and replace broken parts, at least for someone who is used to doing repairs on their own. In theory, the materials used will also be sustainable or responsibly sourced, possibly from recycled products even. That’s not always possible with electronics, of course, so the option of repairing and sending back components for recycling helps both the owner and the environment in the long run.

The Fold’s sustainability extends to the concept of its packaging. Where most products require two layers, with the packaging itself and then the shipping box, Blond envisioned a single recycled and recyclable packaging that meets both needs. This eliminates wasted materials while still leaving room for some creative innovation inside the box, like a space for broken or suspended components for shipping back to the manufacturer for repairs or recycling.

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Samsung foldable phone concept seems to be inspired by Tetris

Flexible displays open up a world of possibilities, though some of them might make less sense than others.

Samsung is probably regarded as a king of foldable phones, though its dominance is being challenged a bit by an upstart like OPPO. It still has a wide lead and has plenty of resources to through at R&D. For more than a decade, the company has been dreaming up the different ways foldable devices can change and improve our lives. Some of those dreams do end up becoming actual products, but many remain within the realm of ideas formalized as patent filings. One such patent involves a phone with a flap, which is probably the most accurate way to describe this concept that both makes sense and doesn’t at the same time.

Designer: Jermaine Smit (Concept Creator)

The current breed of foldable phones uses screens that fold right in the middle, whether vertically or horizontally, inside or out. That’s not the only way to fold, of course, but companies are limited by current manufacturing technologies and materials. In the world of patents, however, it’s almost a free for all affair, as long as you can get the design or idea approved first.

With very few constraints, Samsung envisioned a phone that, when laid out unfolded, resembles a shorter version of the L-shaped Tetris block. The top half of the screen extends to the left, and that extension folds back like a flap, with the folded screen facing the same way as the cameras. This transforms the phone into a more regular shape, like the I-block of the same game.

The patent reported by LetsGoDigital almost has an uncanny resemblance to one of LG’s weirdest phones, the LG Wing and its swiveling screen. That existing phone forms a T-shape, though, again like a Tetris block, with a smaller square screen that acts as a secondary display. Samsung’s idea is almost similar but with one extra trick that LG couldn’t pull off.

That flap seems to be functional even when folded, which makes it possible to display things like notifications on the backside of the phone. It can even be used as a viewfinder, allowing the owner to take selfies with the more powerful main cameras. The curved part of the screen at the edge can also be used as a display for something like the date, battery status, and maybe even a ticker for notifications.

When unfolded, that extra screen could display a different app or extended controls for the same app. Conversely, you can use the top portion to watch a video in full, leaving the bottom half of the screen for typing or other things. Unfortunately, the LG Wing proved that a successful implementation relies heavily on software as much as hardware, and not even Samsung, with its fancier Android skin, is there yet. Then again, this is just a patent after all, and it’s simply an act of calling dibs on an idea, whether or not Samsung ends up implementing something as odd as this.

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Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 renders suggest a small but critical design change

Samsung might finally cave into consumer pressure in its next foldable phone, but is it actually the best solution around?

The Galaxy Z Fold 3 is arguably the best-selling foldable phone Samsung has launched, at least next to the clamshell-type Galaxy Z Flip 3. It’s not without its fair share of criticisms, of course, especially with the lackluster front-facing camera hiding underneath the screen. In addition to increased durability, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 ignited interest with its compatibility with an S Pen, Samsung’s Wacom-powered stylus. That new power, however, came with a big catch that almost soured the feature for many users. A designer has now created 3D renders that try to envision what the next iteration would be like if Samsung gave that stylus a home inside the foldable phone.

Designer: Waqar Khan

The S Pen for the Galaxy Z Fold 3 fulfilled fantasies of having a digital notebook you can fold open and write or draw on. Just like with analog notebooks, however, the S Pen didn’t slide inside the phone as it did with the previous Galaxy Note phone series. Samsung tried to justify that step back with the pen’s size, which wouldn’t fit inside the phone, and the newer hardware it had to cram inside the bigger stick, but those excuses didn’t fly with many people, especially Samsung’s own fans.

This design meant that Galaxy Z Fold 3 owners would have to buy and carry that S Pen separately, which created the risk of losing the stylus or even breaking it accidentally. Samsung used a similar strategy with the Galaxy S21 Ultra last year but released a case that included a place to stow the S Pen. In contrast, the first-party flip cover for the Galaxy Z Fold 3 felt like an April Fools joke gone bad in both its design and usability.

With the Galaxy S22 Ultra this year adding a silo for the S Pen, rumors and expectations that the Galaxy Z Fold 4 would follow suit. These renders are based on unofficial information and perhaps a bit of wishful thinking, and they show what the foldable phone would look like if it had the S Pen built-in. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t look different at all.

It was almost as if the designer took a Galaxy Z Fold 3 model and simply carved out a whole for the S Pen ala the Galaxy S22 Ultra. There are almost no visible changes other than that, which might not bode well for those who were already disappointed with last year’s cameras. Fortunately, it’s still too early to tell if this will indeed be the case.

While an included S Pen in the Galaxy Z Fold 4 would indeed solve the problem of speed and convenience, it still raises the question of whether it is the best solution or just a workaround. Having a stick that’s always ready for your notes and doodles is definitely better than having to fumble around for a pen, but it isn’t the most ergonomic tool either. Even the biggest fans of Samsung’s stylus would admit that their hands hurt after prolonged use, and even the larger Galaxy Z Fold 3 S Pen can feel a bit cramped.

Samsung does offer an even larger S Pen Pro that offers more features and, more importantly, gives a better grip for those who need to use the stylus for more than just a few minutes. That, however, brings us back to the original problem of where to keep the stylus. The S Pen Pro is much taller than the phone, so none of the cases, including third-party designs, would actually fit.

There is no easy answer to this design puzzle, at least not yet, but Samsung could have alleviated some of the pain points if it properly designed a case for the Galaxy Z Fold 3. To date, it still has only one official case that accommodated its open S Pen, making it feel like the feature was more of an afterthought rather than a key selling point. Admittedly, that gave accessory makers and even some more creative owners to design their own solutions, which looked and worked better than Samsung’s official product. They’re still not perfect, but it doesn’t bode well for Samsung’s reputation in the design community if it couldn’t even create a decent solution for a $1,800 phone.

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