It’s not just a matter of how smoothly the physical hinges work as the phone unfurls into tablet mode, but whether the underlying software is equally smooth. If I’m writing an email and want to expand out my workspace so I can drop in a link, how well does a folding phone handle that task? Smartphone UX still orbits entirely around the assumption that I, the user, focus on only one app at a time; there have been many attempts by various phone makers to make it easier to work in a split-screen mode, but none that I’ve tried that are satisfying to use.
Another make-or-break for folding phones: glass. As detailed by Brian Barrett in Wired, the folks at Corning, who supply the Gorilla Glass found in iPhones and a huge number of other smartphones, are working on creating scratch-resistant glass tensile enough to be used in a folding phone.
But there are two reasons why virtually every non-bendy smartphone on the market uses glass: it withstands scratches much better than plastic, and glass feels much better to the touch than plastic.
In 2017, Motorola tried to attack one of the biggest pain points for smartphone users with its Moto Z2 Force, featuring a “shatterproof” plastic screen. The phone was a dud — it picked up scratches remarkably fast, looked cloudy even before it got scratched up, and just felt cheap to the touch.
Seems more gimmicky than useful. With larger screens there is more battery consumption, which is not what anyone wants. What would be more useful is a way to use your phone as a desktop by plugging in a keyboard and monitor at your desk. Something like using your iPhone as an iMac at home.