About 7 million foldable smartphones were shipped in 2021, according to info from Market research firm IDC, up from 1.9 million in 2020.
This may not seem like a huge shift when you consider that over a billion traditional smartphones were shipped in 2021, but it does suggest that some people want devices that do more than usual. The good thing is that Samsung isn’t the only company that is rethinking the way our phones should look and function.
It can be hard to keep up with the constant crush of new hardware, especially when some great options fly well under the radar. To help, we’ve put together a quick guide on what phone makers try differently, and how well they do it.
What’s called: Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4
What is different about it: It’s a more polished type of hybrid tablet/phone
how much does it cost: $1,799 to start
In the three years since it began its big experiment, Samsung’s foldable phones have gone from being generic phones to efficient slim devices. Initially, this transformation required major changes in design and construction. Now, with the new Z Fold 4, the company looks more comfortable with subtle improvements.
It weighs a little less than the model it replaces, and its external screen – the one that’s meant to be used when the device is closed – is slightly wider than before. We haven’t been able to try out Samsung’s latest hardware yet, but with any luck, those few millimeters make the Fold a little less cumbersome to use in its smartphone form.
But remember: this phone turns into a tablet. When opened, Samsung says the 7.6-inch internal display is also more durable than it has been in previous years. Considering how many times this screen will likely unfold, move, and fold over the life of the phone, this is a very welcome upgrade.
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Beyond that, though, we’re left with the same upgrades that end on every smartphone annual update. The processor — in this case, Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 — should give this device a bit more horsepower than this year’s Galaxy S22 phones. And while previous Fold versions had cameras that were mostly good for the price, Samsung used an improved 50MP sensor to help the Z Fold 4’s main camera capture more detail in photos and video.
I’ve used a version of this device for about two years, and the novelty of having a large screen that (mostly) disappears when I don’t need it and hasn’t been worn yet. However, this price is unreasonable for many; At $999, Samsung’s smaller Galaxy Z Flip 4 is still the most practical option. It uses the same upgraded brain as its brother, packs a slightly improved camera system over last year and, most importantly, a bigger battery.
What’s called: Astro Slide 5G
What is different about it: It has a huge physical keyboard (by phone standards)
how much does it cost: Around $900
With only 11 full-time employees, headquartered in London Planet Computer It can’t build or sell its hardware as fast as Samsung can. Thanks to the community of supporters, the company has successfully built three mobile devices, the latest of which is a funky smartphone/laptop called Astro Slide 5G.
The main draw is a spacious physical keyboard hidden under the screen – it’s a bit cramped compared to a laptop keyboard, but the keys themselves aren’t much smaller. This, according to Planet CEO Dr Janko Mrsic-Flogel, makes it ideal for taking long notes and sending detailed emails while running.
So, what is the form of use? take the keyboard You get a little used to it because of its unusual design, which is derived from a file The defunct PDA brand is a fan favorite In the UK as soon as I wrapped my head around it, I found myself writing at almost full speed.
Astro Slide runs on Google’s Android operating system, and when the device is closed, it works just like a regular – if seriously chunky – smartphone. What surprised me was how natural I felt when using it as a dummy laptop sitting on a table; You can open a taskbar of sorts by pressing a button on your keyboard, and scroll through web pages using the arrow keys. It even handles Excel spreadsheets pretty well, although I probably wouldn’t try to fiddle with any that are super complicated.
As fun as Astro Slide can be, it’s still far from perfect.
My review unit came with a weird little space bar that won’t work if I click on it from the right – being right, that means some of my notes look like I hoped them relentlessly. Someone early read: “This keyboard is waiting for actual work.” (For what it’s worth, Mrs. Flugel said he had never seen this problem before.)
When your keyboard works the way it’s supposed to, there’s no portable note-taker quite like it. But I don’t recommend this to everyone – unless you’re writing novels length emails, that is.
More than just a light show?
What’s called: none phone (1)
What is different about it: Intelligent lighting system for notifications, and some controls for other connected devices you own
how much does it cost: Around $480
Like Astro Slide, the new Nothing Phone (1) is also the product to startBut it’s so polished you can hardly ever feel it. catch? You can’t buy one in the US just yet, although the company plans to revamp the smartphone design here “in the future.” So, what’s all the fuss about?
Partly because Phone (1) is so efficient for the price. But the defining feature of this phone – for now – is its looks.
Its rear half is adorned with about 900 white LEDs (light-emitting diodes), making up what None calls the “Glyph” lighting system. These lights will flash in certain ways when you make specific communication calls, when you invoke Google’s artificial intelligence assistant, or plug it in to charge. It’s a great idea, but it usually comes as a festive trick for an elegantly designed phone on the front. However, it’s not hard to imagine how it could become more useful – imagine putting on a certain light pattern when your boss is away from you.
Even more interesting is None’s plan to integrate third-party hardware controls directly into its software. a Secent software update Added an experimental tool to turn on and unlock Tesla air conditioners, without the need for an additional app. Who do you know? There is probably no phone in the US that has smarter tricks.
If you’re not in the mood to wait and would rather buy a reliable phone at roughly the same price, Google’s Pixel 6a is probably the way to go. What it lacks in an amazing design, it makes up for in great performance, some interesting AI features, and a price tag that won’t make you groan.
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