Best answer: Foldables are exciting, but they're not mainstream products, yet. That means for most people, the best phone to buy in 2020 is a "traditional" non-folding smartphone. When it comes to foldables, options are limited, prices are high, and compromises are plentiful — you have to really want to experience the unique folding capabilities to give up (and spend) so much to have one.
- Best foldable available: Samsung Galaxy Z Flip ($1,380 at Samsung)
- Stay out of the fold: Samsung Galaxy S20+ ($1,200 at Amazon)
Should you buy a foldable phone in 2020?
Foldables are the next frontier of smartphone design, opening up incredible possibilities for new form factors. At the moment there are two leading designs: the horizontal fold that opens up from a "normal" phone size to a mini-tablet, and the vertical fold that opens up from a compact size to a typical phone size and shape. Both offer utility and address the needs of different types of users.
It's easy to look at the current crop of foldables and think there's enough interesting technology there to buy one for yourself. There are many reasons why you'd want one, from their utility in offering extra screen when you need it to, in some cases, larger batteries, and even interesting quirks like their photography possibilities. Plus, just as importantly, they're downright cool — having a phone that folds in half is inherently interesting and unique, and you're bound to stand out from the crowd with one in your hands.
Unfortunately, right now those upsides come with considerable trade-offs and there are several reasons to steer clear of foldables in 2020. Foldables aren't nearly as durable as the solid-state phones we're all used to, they have inferior specs and cameras, and they're extremely expensive for what they offer — from $1,380 for the Z Flip up to €2,500 for the Mate XS. You're getting a very cool and fashionable item, but one that's in most ways inferior to the "regular" smartphones out there for the same, or often much less, money.
To buy a foldable phone in 2020, you have to really want to be on the bleeding edge of technology, and understand all of the compromises you'll be making to do so.
Ultimately there aren't that many foldables to choose from right now, either. You have the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip, Motorola RAZR, Samsung Galaxy Fold, and Huawei Mate XS. Compare that to the huge list of great phones you can buy, led by the Samsung Galaxy S20+, for hundreds of dollars less, and it's a tough sell.
Foldables aren't going anywhere, they're only going to get better — so you don't need to feel like you're going to be left behind if you don't jump on this first round of consumer-ready models. Our recommendation is to stick to a normal smartphone for now and jump over to foldables when the compromises reduce.
The best foldable
The best folding experience you can buy right now
If you need a foldable, the Galaxy Z Flip brings you a folding screen with the fewest compromises. It's built on Samsung's great foundation, and that almost makes it worth the money.
Staying out of the fold
Much better value for the money ... but it doesn't fold
For less money than the Z Flip, the S20+ gives you the next generation of Samsung's display, hardware, specs, and cameras. It's a downright better value.
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Andrew was an Executive Editor, U.S. at Android Central between 2012 and 2020.