Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Folding Flip Phones Flopping

Dieter Bohn of the Verge on the new Motorola Razr:

That is the Razr’s first major trade-off. I’m harping on the $1,500 price, but not because it’s too high for any phone. Phones are our primary computers, and many people could reasonably justify that price or something even higher for the right phone. The problem with the Razr is that it delivers so few of the things you’d expect at that — or any — price.

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The Razr’s screen is made of plastic, and it was recently one-upped by Samsung’s Galaxy Z Flip, which has the first folding glass display ever. Tough break. In general, though, folding screens are so new that it’s hard to know exactly what standard to judge them by. Clearly, they require trade-offs, but which trade-offs are reasonable and which are dumb won’t be clear until we use more of them.

What I don’t like: the soft plastic is likely to pick up nicks, dings, and indentations from use — and I think fairly normal use, at that. It feels slightly more robust than the Galaxy Fold’s screen, but that may just be because it’s smaller. Motorola’s main innovation with the screen is how it constructed the hinge to minimize any creasing and allow the phone to close completely flat. There are two parts to this story.

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Since we’ve talked about the hinge so much, we need to get to another trade-off. Maybe you’ve heard about it, or maybe you’ve literally heard it. The creak.

Bad luck. Maybe that glass screen in the Galaxy Z Flip will fare better?

Raymond Wong, Input:

The Galaxy Z Flip — at least according to Samsung — shouldn’t have the same issues that doomed its first foldable, the Galaxy Fold. At Unpacked, Samsung made sure to highlight all the ways it improved durability in the Z Flip. The display is made of “Ultra Thin Glass” instead of plastic (it’s better, but still pretty prone to scratching). The “hideaway hinge” has fibers inside of it to keep particles out. The hinge doesn’t creak when the phone is folded. There are two little bumpers on the bottom corners to absorb hard closures. The foldable display can handle up to 200,000 folds before it breaks; 100,000 more folds than the Razr.

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Realist me remains skeptical foldable phones will ever be more than a short-lived fad. (Prove me wrong phone makers!) I keep waiting to be convinced that there’s a meaningful purpose for a foldable phone other than “it folds in half!” Samsung is on the right track with the Z Flip. The hardware is getting better and all that’s left is a killer use case. As it is, the Z Flip is an expensive toy and not a smartphone you can rely on day in and day out. It’s still too expensive and its durability is uncertain. If bleeding edge tech is a way of life for you, then this phone has your name written all over. But if you need a phone you can count on that gives you the best of everything, trust me: you can do better.

I’m not sure why anyone would buy one of these prototypical devices today, unless you have a couple thousand dollars burning a hole in your pocket. And, anyway, wouldn’t you feel better sending that money to me instead?