GP The Panel 6: Who needs a folding phone?

Seriously. Nobody needs a folding phone. But that's not the point.

2019-03-05 23:40:24
This piece first appeared in the Guernsey Press on 5th March, 2019.

Q: Do we really need folding phones?

With the recent announcement of folding-screen smartphones from Samsung and Huawei, many people are asking a simple question: “Why?!” 

The primary selling point of these devices is that they give you the 'smartphone and tablet in one’ experience so you will no longer have to endure the inconvenience of lugging around two devices. They may have some functional use and a very practical purpose if the technology of the new bendy screens make them more durable and resistant to accidental breakage. And there’s no denying that they have some grade A, prime "gimmick-value" - these will no doubt make great conversation in the pub when they’re released. But for most of us, the £1500+ price tag is likely to be reason alone to not even consider splashing out, long before you consider whether you even really need one.

In reality, these phones represent much more than gimmicky consumer gadgetry. For the manufacturers, there are simple bragging rights at stake - Samsung got there first, beating, perhaps more importantly than Huawei, Apple to the mark. We will no doubt see more varied uses of the technology as it becomes adapted for e.g., installation in non-flat surfaces such as dashboards and headrests and perhaps most likely in medical and scientific scenarios where flexible and adjustable screens are likely to serve a very real and valuable purpose.

But above all, it encapsulates the very spirit of innovation - that is, defined in simplest terms, doing things differently. This is mostly looking at something we already do and asking that very same question: why? Why do we do it like that? Oftentimes the answer is underwhelming and, in such circumstances, considering whether a folding screen (or at least its metaphor) would help do things differently is a great way to bring innovation in to our daily lives.