Published in El Pais, 13 November 2018.
Often society praises the person to be the first to accomplish something, first man on the moon, first flight across the Atlantic, the first to climb Mount Everest and so on. This of course requires no explanation as we admire those that take the courageous leap that none dare do so before them. When we move to the technology sector however the admiration, if it is there at all is often short lived and companies are often punished with poor sales despite accomplishing a marvelous technological feat.
The reason I bring this up is because Samsung has done something many thought was impossible. They have built a foldable smartphone which can fold out into a tablet and claim that no matter how many times it is folded the screen will never break. To think that a screen can be foldable is mind boggling and of course Samsung does deserve praise for this feat. However, lost in all of this are many negative aspects of the phone. When folded it is really thick and likely bulky in one’s pocket. The bezels on the side are also an eye soar which is important as phones are moving to edge to edge screens. Samsung claims this is the prototype and there may be changes. But if final version looks like the prototype, it may have a hard time selling.
This is a perfect example of how coming in first is not always rewarding as in a few years many companies will likely make their own foldable phone with features much more impressive as they get to learn from Samsung’s mistakes. Apple themselves seem to form their business model around this. They are often made fun of for introducing features to their iPhone years after competitors do it like waterproofing and wireless charging, but they may be on to something. Apple took years to build an LTE phone, but one only had to look at the first phone to run on this network by LG before realizing why. The phone was often described as too thick (sound familiar?) with low battery life. They look to be making a similar move with 5G as the first 5G iPhone will likely come out a year after the networks are up.
This of course should be a warning to consumers as well. When new technology comes out it is not long before various problems are discovered with it, often leaving the customers on the hook for expensive repairs, not to mention the high price tag that often comes with new technology. The foldable screen is cool, but buyers should beware with this and any other new ground-breaking gadget that comes out in the future. It may save you more than a few bucks.