At the world’s biggest tech show, ‘foldable’ design moves beyond phones
Each year Consumer Electronics Show (CES) gives us a glimpse of the technologies that could become a mainstay in our lives. The CES 2020 edition has been no exception. Among many new and innovative devices showcased at the CES, the 'foldable' design continued to steal the limelight.
Foldable phones already exist
Back in November 2018, California-based Royole Corporation became the world's first company to offer a foldable phone commercially. Soon after, Samsung announced its first foldable phone. Huawei also joined the bandwagon. The foldable phones had a rocky start with Samsung and Huawei delaying the launch for months following critical design issues.
As 2019 progressed, we saw these foldable phones getting upgraded. Motorola was the last to announce Moto Razr foldable phone but with a clamshell design. Sadly, the smartphone has been delayed as well.
The initial glitches, however, don't appear to have stopped the companies from pursuing the foldable concept. Samsung is working on a Galaxy Fold 2. The likes of Xiaomi are also expected to join the party sooner or later.
At the CES 2020, TCL showcased an unnamed foldable phone which is confirmed to cost lesser than $1,500 - the price tag of the Moto Razr foldable phone. TCL's foldable phone comes with a 7.2-inch display, four cameras at the back, and runs on Snapdragon 660 processor. Unlike Razr's clamshell format, TCL's offers a book-like foldable design.
Foldable, not just for the phones
At this year's CES, we saw the 'foldable' design coming to more and newer kinds of devices. Lenovo introduced a fully functional PC with a foldable OLED display. Expected to commercially launch later this year, Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold comes with a 13.3-inch pOLED display. Lenovo points out multiple use cases for the new foldable laptop. This includes the ability to take notes or doodle using a stylus when the device is in the portrait mode. You can also semi-bend the device to use it as a book. And when fully opened, it can be used as a laptop.
Another foldable device that had made the headlines is Intel's concept "Horseshoe Bend". The laptop, when fully opened, offers a 17-inch OLED display. You can also fold the laptop to use it as a laptop, similar to dual-screen laptops. The foldable laptop is also the reference device for the Tiger Lake processor which is based on Intel's 10nm+ processor and the new Xe graphics architecture.
While the Intel device may remain a concept, what it shows is the chipmaker's capabilities to power future laptops with larger and foldable screens.
At the CES 2020, Dell showcased 'Concept Ori' which offers a 13-inch foldable display. You can use this foldable device in vertical mode. Dell says the foldable device offers a seamless switch between the single screen and dual-screen modes.
Tech companies are also experimenting with dual-screen devices. For instance, Dell introduced 'Concept Duet' dual-screen laptop featuring two 13.4-inch displays.
"Devices like this will help customers to multitask more efficiently. Consider the productivity benefits of being able to compare and edit images, scenes or documents on each display. With the extra screen real estate, users will also be able to easily host conference calls, check emails and take notes simultaneously on-the-go," said Dell in a release.
Another big company that's betting big on dual-screen form factor is Microsoft. The company last year introduced Surface Duo and Surface Neo. One of these two devices is also capable of making voice calls, but Microsoft has shied away from calling the device a 'phone'.
Foldable phones are most likely to be more common in 2020. It will be interesting to see how foldable laptops or other devices fair commercially. We're also hoping the companies have learned from early debacles Samsung and Huawei faced with their foldable phones. As far as pricing goes, these devices are going to be expensive for now.