We have reached a point, and maybe we've been here for quite some time now, where the majority of phones share enough similar features and specs that we might be in a good place to start diversifying design decisions. Put another way, it's time to start looking beyond the "slab with a screen" and start going boldly into new ways of thinking.
That may be one reason why we're seeing a new foldable phone.
As many of you are surely aware by now, especially if you saw the news about ZTE's new Axon M smartphone, this is not the first time that we've seen a smartphone with this type of design. But the Kyocera Echo launched back in 2011, and it was not a success. Maybe we'll find out soon that it was simply ahead of its time, more than it was a technical failure.
Whatever the case, we've gone full circle with foldable phones it seems, because ZTE has the Axon M to show off to the world, and, next month, launch into the smartphone market. And while many phones are focusing on reducing bezels, ZTE is actually going the complete opposite way and including an entirely extra pair of bezels for good measure.
The Axon M offers a pair of full-sized displays that measure in at 5.2 inches each. They also offer 1080p HD resolution on both, which is honestly a nice touch. The phone offers plenty of software features to try and take advantage of the displays, as one might expect. You can stretch out the UI to use both at the same time (and take advantage of the full 6.75-inch combined screen real estate), or use each independently if you want. Being able to watch one YouTube video on one display, and another YouTube video on another, especially in a tent mode for multiple people, might actually be an interesting feature in practice.
The Axon M is thin enough not to be annoying when the displays are folded closed, so that's a good thing. And while it has huge bezels, hopefully the displays aren't awful. There's just a single 21-megapixel camera, and the overall specs for the Axon M aren't terrible. So if the Axon M doesn't fare well, one could point to the foldable design as being the reason.
Or the price. Or the fact that the ZTE brand isn't really a household name in the United States.
But, the design is unique, so it does have that going for it. And we've heard already this year that Samsung is apparently planning on launching a foldable smartphone sooner, rather than later. Which means that companies like LG will be quick to follow. In fact, the rumor mill has even suggested that by the time 2020 rolls around, Apple of all companies will have its own foldable iPhone, too.
So the Kyocera Echo might have been too early to the idea, and ZTE might not get enough credit for getting its foot in the door before the other big companies out there, but are we really on the cusp of welcoming this new big design change? Are foldable smartphones "the next big thing?"
When I think of a foldable smartphone, I don't think I want to use something like the Kyocera Echo or even the ZTE Axon M. But not because they are necessarily bad (they aren't), but only because I just want us to jump into some truly Sci-Fi level design. No hinges or big bezels. Just all display and basically some high-grade fiction level ridiculousness. We aren't there by any means, but I think we might have to be pretty close to that before folks jump on board with the idea.
Then again, maybe Samsung shows us something pretty awesome with its own display technology. That would be pretty awesome.
In any event, what do you think? Are you ready for some foldable phone action in your life? Or are you perfectly okay with the way phones are designed now, with their minimized bezels and big displays? Let me know!