The future of mobile phones could have been revealed this month, as Samsung and Huawei launched their new folding phones. This is not a return of the flip phones of the 2000s—although at the time, my Motorola Razr was the envy of my Year 8 class.
But, there’s an elephant in the room. The price. When Huawei revealed the cost of its new model the audience at MWC audibly gasped. Upward of £2,000 for a phone is pretty steep, even for the most avid gadget lover. Especially when we don’t know how durable they will be.
The early reactions seem quite positive, but I’ll be holding back. Not just to see how they hold up to daily use, but also to see how well (and quickly) developers adapt apps to the new format. When the iPhone changed form factor it took a long time for many apps to update—many were left with black bars top and bottom for months, or more. And if these devices remain niche, there’s not much incentive for developers to prioritise the necessary work.
But, and this is where the marketing comes in, the success or failure of these phones isn’t just about sales volumes. Samsung and Huawei are hoping to benefit from the halo effect. The theory is that having the most innovative device on the market will boost the sales of the rest of the product range. Just like how the exotic fashions on show at London Fashion Week last month affect what brand we choose when buying a new pair of jeans. Maybe it’s working, the launches are making waves. But whether they can topple Apple’s hegemony remains to be seen.
Of course, there’s a positive in this for Apple. These new devices make even the XS look more affordable!
Posted by John on 28 February 2019