Samsung, not Apple, is leading the next exciting phone industry change: Foldables

Galaxy Fold, iPhone and Galaxy Z Flip
Galaxy Fold, iPhone and Galaxy Z Flip (Image credit: Michael Fisher)

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 Galaxy Z Flip

Source: Daniel Bader / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Bader / Android Central)

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.

Source: Andrew Martonik / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Andrew Martonik / Android Central)

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.

Andrew was an Executive Editor, U.S. at Android Central between 2012 and 2020.

79 Comments
  • Apple isn't what it used to be, without Steve Jobs.
  • That would be a good thing. The problem is that Apple is exactly the same thing that was with Steve Jobs. The first signs of any change just happened half a year ago.
  • Apple haven't done a single innovation since the first few iPhones. Al they've done is just copycat some other company.
    Even their computers are non innovative. They use old underpowered hardware and market it as something great when really it's just a old computer with special software on it (I'd say they have been in the market of software not hardware, but even with their software they are years behind)
  • That may have been true before but since the iPhone 6s, Apple had been dominating it's Android rivals in performance with only OnePlus that comes close to matching Apple because they don't put bloat like Samsung and LG do.
  • 3D Touch, Face ID, Taptic Engine, Retina Displays, True Tone Display, Variable Refresh Rate 120HZ (Pro Motion), EDR in smartphone video, and DCI-P3 displays and photos on/from a phone. iMessage/FaceTime. AirDrop. Continuity, Handoff, SMS/MMS relay. They've been innovative. You just need to buy their stuff. That's kind of how they roll. And that's ignoring the innovation they have done at the component level. Their A Series SoCs are the most innovative on the market, right now. About 2 years ahead of Qualcomm. Their M Series Chips and Imaging Components have consistently been ahead of the curve. Remember when Apple was the only OEM that could stitch high resolution panorama images? There's a reason why they are the best phones for recording video, as well. Hilariously, companies like Samsung have copied Apple far more than the other way around. Apple has generally been content to move at their own pace, while Android companies destroy each other, and their profit margins, spec wh*ring and catering to geeks. There's a reason why Samsung is selling at prices beyond Apple, now, lol... I can't even take what you're posting seriously.
  • Uhhh...huh? What?
    Apple has come out with jack since Jobs passed.
  • I kinda wonder what Apple would be like now if Woz had been in charge. I don't think they would have been as profitable, but I think their products would be more fun!
  • Woz is only one step away from Stallman. Crazy AF.
  • I stopped reading after "Apple innovates in many ways, across more than phones (just look at that new iPad Pro)"
  • You know that camera stuff is coming to the new iphone. A lot of things are done in the iPad u till they are able to downsize it well enough to put in the iphone. All of the code for 120Hz etc. Is already there. It won't be as big a battery drain as Samsungs. It will probably be a legit Variable Refresh that doesn't waste power just because you're looking at a 30FPS YouTube video. I think Apple could Innovate more, but they don't want to release tons of beta products because they prefer not to litter the market with 100 different phones. They tend to only release features when they are good enough for general use.
  • For me Apple leads in the areas that matters, design isn't going to protect against the latest Android malware. And it's well-known I'm not a fan of Samsung as such but I respect what they've done for Android. And Apple still is dominant in profits and software support and experience even if they don't offer as much customisation as Samsung and Android overall. And the Android fanboys forget that Apple almost always has the best implement of features that Android had a few years earlier.
  • 1) Been using Android for going on 10 years and have only had one "malware" incident and that was where an app that I had been using for years was bought by a shady company. 2) "And Apple still is dominant in profits" Apple making money doesn't do a thing for the consumer. Do you think that the dominance of Microsoft and AT&T in years past was a good thing or a bad one? 3) "Apple almost always has the best implement of features" Apple "fanboys" hilariously believe that saying this over and over again - and refusing to listen to anyone else with a dissenting opinion - somehow makes it true.
  • Just stating the state of the market, Samsung only has their "designs" if you want to talk about true innovation then the likes of Oppo, OnePlus, Huawei and even Xiaomi are ahead of Samsung in innovation. When it comes to smartphone trends Apple leads and the rest of Android follow.
  • Totally agree Apple leads in the trends. They re not always first they just implement it much better in their own design and improvements.
  • I prefer the iPhone like you too. The sad thing though is that those Chinese companies usually are stealing the innovations from real companies like Apple, etc. Because many of the world's tech companies do their manufacturing in China for cheaper costs, what ends up happening is that the innovations that someone like Apple develops often gets stolen by Chinese counterfeiters directly from the manufacturing plants. Some of my industry peers, and many others I don't have direct affiliations with, have had this happen to them, where something is sent to China for manufacturing, and then in a few months, an exact clone with some Chinese branding on it will be selling on the market for a third of the price!! The sneaky way they do it is either by trying to steal the blueprints, hacking some satellite office, or just by directly diverting the end product off of the assembly line of a real company like Apple and shipping it off to some shady Chinese counterfeiter, whether it's a giant counterfeiter like Huawei that's protected by their government or a small one that seems to crop up like weeds over there. And the terrifying thing is that because these Chinese counterfeiters don't care about quality reputation as much as an established company such as Apple, they don't care if they steal and implement a half-ready innovation if that means they can sell or announce it before the company that actually invented it, just to steal the limelight too. I don't have a foldable phone, but it's like what's happened with the recent foldable phone business too. Samsung did R&D on it since around 2010, then they most likely started experimenting with the manufacturing of a more consumer-ready version a few years ago, which allowed Huawei and other Chinese copycats (who have had ZERO experience with such technology) to pilfer the tech and slap together something close enough to the Fold quite literally overnight, which normally takes years and years for legitimate companies. The barrier to entry for something like this is usually insurmountable, but these Chinese counterfeiters are able to side-step it via massive intellectual property theft. And voila, the Chinese get to share the limelight with legitimate companies, while spending zero effort and money. So yeah, it's pretty frustrating if you own a business and have to stress about the constant threat of Chinese entities constantly trying to steal your crown jewels. If it's bad for small businesses like me, I'm sure it's even worse for these larger corporations who devote millions of dollars to R&D but get it stolen in a blink of an eye. Anyway, that was pretty long huh? Lol, thanks for making it to the end. Hopefully Apple's foldable phone isn't too far off from now, I'll be interested in seeing that. Peace!
  • Because it's true! Dah! Apple always perfected technology's that already existed before, same thing will happen with foldables, Apple once again will release finished product that will be miles ahead of completion, it's just reality, I've been using all kinds of smartphones, I like Galaxy Note line, I really liked HTC, and owned all of them, but always come back to iPhone, because I simply have better experience with it and have much more things to do, it works better in my car, and because of the huge and usable IOS app base, many apps that I need just don't exist on Android unfortunately...
  • I don't know about apple releasing finished products anymore, with my recent experience with them they have become more and more like Android in that there are way more bugs in their software that I've noticed and that don't get fixed (a music player bug that has been present since like iOS 7, etc...) I do like their gesture controls a lot. There is also this bug or something but it is extremely annoying, but pretty much any apple device will require you to relogin to all of your email accounts every few months or so. And as far as apples software being free from malware is false, they are susceptible to attack too, it's just that hackers weren't targeting apple devices as much. There is no truly safe device, there is always going to be someone that can end up breaking into it.
  • Htc made phones really long ago. Samsumg has done a lot since then,like the Samsung wireless charger apple still struggles with,almost no bezzles,no notch,and took away the home button on the s8 ,the iPhone x came with a similar idea a year later
  • Apple making more money means you won't get an update on an iphone that suddenly puts ads in the Today screen, the way ads started popping up in Bixby Home on my Note9. Profitability allows the company to realize their vision without feeling the need to co.peomise it or the user experience to meet profitability quotas. It definitely matters. It also means Apple can afford to support iphones for 4-5 years, since their profits aren't only from device sales, but also the App Store and services. Samsung can never do this because they would just undercut themselves. The idea that you need a new phone for updates is exactly what they want consumers to believe, so that they keep buying new Samsung phones. Apple is okay with users keeping their phone for 4 years, because their users tend to stay within that ecosystem and invest in other areas of their business from where they can draw profits. This is why Samsung has tried and failed to duplicate Apple on their phones (resulting in 2 redundant ecosystems on one device). Remember Milk Music? ChatOn? We have Bixby, Samsung Cloud, Samsung Pay, etc. etc. A Samsung Account is basically like an Apple ID. They even have their own redundant Find My Phone service!!! And they've tried duplicating Apples Conti unity features as well ( ow partnering with Microsoft for this). There is a reason why they've done this. To monetize the devices further - the way Apple has. Apple makes a lot of money off of its users, post-sale, which is why they are able to support them so well. And, supporting them so well keeps the users put, because the alternatives (like Samsung) are laughably bad.
  • Beno - Malware is your reason? I have a bigger problem with Apple's buggy iOS updates. I own and use both, and have never had a malware problem on Android, but have dealt with so many iOS bugs that it's been like a plague. In terms of Apple perfecting features, this is true in some cases. Apple's night mode is SO refined in the user interface... it's pretty much perfect and I love the way the image fades in from black. It's almost art, and the results are preferable to me over the Pixel because Apple does not destroy the night ambience like Google does. But you know who does better than Apple in still photography, night mode, and portrait mode? HTC. Daytime photographs are more detailed. HTC night mode looks almost identical to Apple's, and that's a good thing. But zoom in, and HTC's clarity and detail is miles ahead of Apple... it's not even close. Then for portrait mode, Apple still has problems with body gaps that HTC handles fine. Granted, HTC invented smartphone portrait mode and has an advantage in experience, but you'd think Apple would have it down by now.
  • The only thing that htc is 'miles' ahead of is to the bankruptcy court. I've had several desire models, and they were trash. Try skimming the HTC forums and come back and tell us the u11 & u12 is the best phones for everything.
  • Better yet, how about actual night mode photographs with side by side 100% crops, taken less than 48 hours ago by a professional photographer?
    Apple iPhone 11 versus HTC U12 Plus:
    https://photos.app.goo.gl/JkU5kfcf5ee6SJ4P7
  • You do believe everything on the internet lol.
    If it wasn't junk, they wouldn't be in the predicament their in making budget phones only... smdh
  • Actually, I've been doing commercial photography for years, and I took those photos myself. To be honest, I went into this test using four different phones and a Nikon for reference, and I sincerely expected the iPhone to come out on top. All shots were done multiple times on a tripod, with the selected iPhone 11 shot being taken at 12:04 am and the HTC U12 Plus shot being taken at 12:10 am. Light levels measured at 0.1 LUX from the streetlight behind me, so it was pretty darn dim! Below is the data from from the original photos, which were selected with the help of an assistant who is a dedicated iPhone user.
    iPhone 11: f/1.8, exposure time 1/2 sec, ISO-1250.
    U12 Plus: f/1.8, exposure time 20 sec, ISO-99.
    I'm not sure why the iPhone data says 1/2 sec for the exposure time, because it clearly took 5 seconds for every shot during the tests. Perhaps 5 seconds was just processing time, which would be fine under the circumstances. As you might have noticed, the iPhone kept it's exposure time relatively short, and turned up the sensitivity. The HTC, on the other hand, could use the lowest ISO and extend the exposure time. It's pretty much just sitting there with its shutter open, casually collecting photons. In other situations where the photo was unplanned, I might prefer the iPhone's quicker approach though.
  • You're comparing an irrelevant "player" in HTC to Apple? You've already lost this debate. And while I agree Apple's software is more buggy than before, Apple fixes most bugs far more quickly than any Android OEM does and a lot of the bugs on iOS aren't security update exploits like on Android either.
  • Beno - did you not see the photos? No phone is perfect, and I'll probably keep buying iPhones and Androids because I like the variety and keeping up to date. But, I'm not going to go into denial and say a brand is better at everything, just because I happen to like it that day.
    If another phone takes better photos, it is what it is. I'm just glad I don't have to lug my Nikons around ALL the time, or apologize for a photo being taken by a phone any more.
  • Apple rarely leads in any technology, they just get a lot of credit because they're very good at marketing.
  • Apple gets the credit in the United States from people who believe that an Apple/Microsoft duopoly is the way things are supposed to be. In Europe, Asia, Latin America ... basically everywhere but the United States and Canada, innovations on the Android side are much better covered by the media.
  • I'm not from North America.
  • More people use iPhone than Android in the UK where I live which (in case you didn't know or have been living under a rock for the last 3 years) isn't part of the European Union anymore so don't include the UK with Europe because while I like Android very much, I've come to the conclusion that in things that matter to me, Apple will always be better than Android such as gaming, security and privacy and I can live with the restrictions of iOS because as a visually impaired person, Apple is better for me but I will still use Android when I get my iPhone 11 Pro Max which is the only phone that can justify its high price due to it's amazing software support and customer service.
  • What happened to the one plus is the best? See. I was right. You are so easy to read. Just like a pamphlet.
  • I still love my OnePlus 7T but I'm not blind about what Apple does better and apps and games are simply a better experience ok iOS and Apple will always lead in trends and while Apple isn't first in features, it always perfects them when they bring a feature that Android has had for years and their implementation of said dear has always been superior and my case in point is 3D Touch which Apple got right first time, same with the fingerprint sensor and now with face ID which is more secure than the Android equivalent unlike the likes of Samsung saying "look at me, I got the latest wiz bang feature that I haven't tested properly" Fact!
  • The best iPhone is the 8. Touch Id is was better than farce Id. I agree with you for once though. Apple does mobile better than any other company.
  • Face ID is amazing. No one who uses both will miss touch ID. Face id basically registers instantly, even from some fairly extreme angle and even in total darkness, without blinding you with an IR Scanner like the Note 9 did. It is faster than using the fingerprint reader on my Note 9, and more accurate/reliable. Ignorable retort, really. I doubt you have ever used it, much less compared the two.
  • Try again. I have used it. Try unlocking your phone on your desk without picking it up. Try unlocking your phone while in a car cradle, try unlocking your phone for apple pay while it's still in your pocket. Just some of many ways touch Id is way better. Plus farce Id misfires more than touch Id ever did. So how is it better? Even apple knows this and they are working on bringing back touch Id in their flagship phones.
  • "Try unlocking your phone on your desk without picking it up" I wonder how many people use their phone flat on a desk? I can't imagine many. If you're just checking the notifications, sure, although I believe you can set it so that notifications show the content without unlocking, so you wouldn't need to unlock with Face ID in that case. "Try unlocking your phone while in a car cradle" CarPlay is designed to replace this, it sucks if you haven't got a car with CarPlay support, but if you're using a satnav application the screen will stay unlocked anyway. "try unlocking your phone for apple pay while it's still in your pocket" Unless you lean your whole body to the NFC reader with the phone still in your pocket, I don't understand how this is a problem. To use Apple Pay with either Face ID or Touch ID, you have to take it out of your pocket. The NFC chip is on the back of the phone, so the phone is going to be facing you once it touches the sensor.
  • The iPhone 8 isn't better, it's outdated and got rightly overshadowed by the iPhone X at launch, yes I loved Touch ID but face ID makes it obsolete now.
  • Face ID is much better. I used to have issues with Touch ID at times, which is especially annoying when trying to pay for something. Face ID has worked every time and it's really fast. The one time Face ID didn't work was wearing sunglasses on holiday, but after googling I realized you can turn off the "Require Attention" mode which requires your eyes to be looking at the sensor, and once that was switched off it worked fine again
  • Beno - You may want to hold off on saying Apple will always be better at gaming. I know it's common to say that, but in reality there are two problems with gaming on iPhones. Number one is gestures screwing up gameplay, and this happens pretty much every gaming session in side scrollers and shooters. The other factor is that Apples uses no physical thermal management to distribute away from the SOC. This means that that the SOC gets hot, can't pass the heat away, and the iPhone begins lagging and glitching. To the casual user playing candy crush, this will never happen. But when you are in a head to head gaming competition in Asphalt 8 or Riptide GP2 and the like, the iPhone gets hot, and next thing I know my gaming buddy is tossing it on the bed and saying "I give up!" because it's glitching or locked up completely. In comparison, the U12+ uses thermal paste to pull heat from the SOC, RAM, and memory, and passes the heat to large copper and graphite dissipation sheets. Everyone in our gaming circle knows the U12 keeps it's cool in hardcore gaming, even after the iPhone has to be put aside to cool off.
  • All phones get very warm. I've played COD H2H for hours on my iPhones and Androids, and never had your so called glitch or freeze and still have battery for days. A friend of mine in the UK just bought a U12+ and he's already wanting to send it back. The side buttons work half the time, camera issues, ect..
    He even called it a POS.
  • Now you're making stuff up. HTC does not sell the U12+ anymore, and even if your friend did get one, any button calibration issues would have been resolved with the first update, unless the device was defective.
    The U12 Plus camera has always been exceptional. Andrew Martonik himself said so, as did DxOMark, calling it the best dual camera system in the world at the time.
  • You wish I was making it up. It was used, not new DUH! It is in very nice condition though. The original owner took care of it. But it's not as you claim the u12 plus to be. The forehead and chin are too big for my taste. I like all screen displays.
  • All phones get warm from extended gameplay, but the difference is that Apple can sustain it's GPU performance for much longer than Qualcomm's flagship Snapdragon SOCs and Android still doesn't even have cloud saves yet so of I factory reset my 7T, poof all my gaming progress is erased because Google hasn't figured out how to integrate cloud saves into Android games while Apple has had this will iCloud saves from day 1.