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Why folding is the future of smartphones

One of the best things about being a technology journalist is getting to see the pace of innovation. Sure, this means we also get to see up close the pace of e-waste that is dramatically contributing to climate change and will kill us all eventually. But the fun part is seeing things like folding phones go from being an impractical, overpriced gimmick with major flaws 3 years ago, to being the obvious future shape of phones in 2021.

I’ve been using the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 for the last few weeks, and while it’s not perfect, the problems seem surmountable.

The Galaxy Z Fold3 has issues, but they’re not as fatal as with previous foldable phones.

The Galaxy Z Fold3 has issues, but they’re not as fatal as with previous foldable phones.Credit:

The original Fold didn’t feel viable because a single drop onto a solid surface, a small amount of crunchy pocket lint, or some rain could kill your $3500 phone or necessitate an expensive repair. Premium phones are for people who live on them, which means there’s always going to be spills, falls and crumbs.

The next problem was that the inner plastic screen felt and scratched like a toy, sandwiched in a phone that was too thick to be comfortably held when folded, yet the hinge was too stiff to open every single time you wanted to reply to a quick message.

Finally, to achieve the desired shape of the phone when folded, the front screen was long and thin and the inner screen a square, neither of which was very friendly to apps made for traditional phone screen shapes.

All but the last of those issues have been addressed, and it feels like just a matter of time before the final one is solved.

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The durability is good now. While I still haven’t dropped it from standing height, it has fallen off the arm of my couch onto a wooden floor countless times and is still totally fine. It’s also got an IPX8 water resistance rating, so it could survive being dropped in the bath.

The new inner screen is made of glass, so it can withstand life’s crumbs and has S Pen support. The Fold series is the obvious successor to the Note, but future versions will need to have a spot for the stylus in the body of the phone; Samsung’s official S Pen case for Fold3 bizarrely covers the front screen.

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