Published in El Pais, September 10th 2019.
I have written about this in the past, being the first to do something is always memorable and would cement you into the history books. However, in the tech world being first can be costly and you may be cemented in history books but probably for the wrong reason. Once again, I am writing about the Samsung foldable phone.
The first prototype was ugly, the second was beautiful but has a lot of problems. The screen was often exposed to debris causing it to break and many people reviewing the phone complained about the screen developing a crease from being folded. The result was the release date being delayed until now where Samsung finally feels the phone is ready. Whether the problems persist time will tell but what we can already see is that other phone companies are learning from Samsung’s mistakes.
Huawei was considered very close to releasing their own foldable phone but now are being very non committal on a release date and even hiding it from the public eye. LG has also shied away from such a device, opting to release a dual screen phone instead. Apple of course has never made any mention of such a foldable screen, although patent fillings at least show they have worked on a screen that can bend.
The reason of course is that they fear running into the problems that Samsung is facing, no one will care if Samsung creates the first foldable phone if it is unusable just like no one remembers that HTC coming out with the first LTE capable phone because it was bulky, overheated easily and had poor battery life. What phone companies, and all companies for that matter need to do is be the first one to do it well. iPhone and Samsung are the most popular phones in the world, yet they did not release their first phones until well after Blackberry released the first smartphone (and when was the last time you saw someone with one of those).
Samsung will be the first to release the foldable smartphone and that is quite an accomplishment, but let’s see which the best seller 5 years from now when they start to become main stream.