These rectangular slab phones are getting pretty boring, and it's gotten to the point where people are antsy to try something different. We're craving a new type of phone, something to get us excited — and right now foldable phones are the best thing we have to look forward to.
Apple innovates in many ways, across more than phones (just look at that new iPad Pro), but it's clear now that Samsung is the company leading the next smartphone form factor change. Much like Apple deserves the credit for popularizing these slab-like all-touch phones in the first place, Samsung is out ahead leading the world's move into the new frontier of foldable phones.
Samsung obviously isn't alone in this push into foldables, but it deserves a whole heap of the recognition for being first into the market with a foldable phone, only to follow it up with a second less than a year later. Lots of companies are working on foldables, and some are even showing them off during development. I have no doubt that Apple has been prototyping foldable devices of all sizes for years in its own labs. But until it comes out, it isn't something you can hang your hat on. Samsung actually did it.
To be clear, this isn't to say that foldables are ready for mainstream adoption yet. A new generation of phones that brings a different form factor or way of thinking is never going to be immediately viable for everyone or supplant the status quo right away. But you have to start somewhere, and waiting for the technology to fully mature before releasing it to the market doesn't always make sense. Someone has to move first, and push the market to try new things and see whether it's the right move and a product that people actually want.
Even Apple, with its history of amazing product successes, doesn't always know what the next big thing is ahead of release — and many of its best products started off small and grew into their own after seeing customer feedback and making improvements in later generations. Seeing Motorola and Huawei have rocky launches of their foldables, and Samsung's own stumbles with the first release of the Galaxy Fold, it's understandable why companies would be hesitant to jump in before they're ready. But there is going to be some level of risk involved when you're doing something new.
Even though Samsung has taken the brunt of the criticism of foldables in general because it was first into the market, it also gets to have the benefit of saying it was first — and learning along the way so that it can stay in front. We already saw considerable improvement from the original Galaxy Fold to the refreshed model, and even more fundamental improvements in the Galaxy Z Flip. Samsung was first, and now a year later it has the best foldable (of an admittedly small group) — and there's no reason to think that another company's first foldable is going to come out and just blow it away.
The best foldable yet
Samsung was first, and it's currently the best.
The Galaxy Z Flip takes a modern smartphone shape and lets you fold it in half. It's expensive, and you'll deal with some compromises, but this is the first foldable to actually feel like a complete product and not a beta test.
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Andrew was an Executive Editor, U.S. at Android Central between 2012 and 2020.