For quite a while, the world has been talking about how smartphones have become this commonplace slab of metal sandwiched between two pieces of glass, and how there has been essentially no innovation whatsoever in the few recent years. Then, in CES 2018, a Chinese company named Royole unveiled Flexpai, claiming it to be the world’s first flexible phone. And for all the valid reasons, it gained much coverage.

The unveiled phone was imperfect to say the least, with an unmanageable chunky body, an unfinished looking plastic screen, and a far from perfect software. The tech world was still skeptical of the possibility of a phone that can fold, rightfully so. The technology just wasn’t ready yet. It was very clear that the company only wanted to be the claimants to be the pioneers of a folding phone which, arguably, is the future of smartphones.

The future, as one would imagine, is a seamless integration between every device that we use. This led us to the point we are at now- folding phones. Since the inception of the Flexpai, a handful other companies pitched their own versions of folding devices. Samsung unveiled their galaxy fold, followed shortly by Huawei’s Mate X, the former folding folding inwards with a secondary screen when folded and the latter folding outwards. Later last year, Motorolla re emerged in the market with the remake of their famous flip phone- The moto razr, only this time, the screen folded into half and made the device more pocketable. Shortly after, Samsung launched their Z flip, with the similar concept of the razr, but this time they brought something entirely new on their plate- A glass screen.

The main concern in folding phones have always been the durability of the screen. The phone screens have been plastic, in fact, softer plastic, which can fold. The first batch of Samsung’s galaxy fold already had been the proof of the susceptibility. Huawei’s Mate X was a reason for a bigger concern, for it folded outwards, making it more susceptible to scratches and even deadlier damages. In came, the super thin glass technology in the Z flip, things started to look a bit different. Glass being significantly more durable than plastic, was aimed at gaining the confidence of the consumers to some extent.

To everyone’s surprise, Microsoft announced its Surface Duo, a dual screen android device that looks like a notebook but has a 360 degrees hinge. The device can fold and put into any position, thanks to the remarkable engineering. This device doesn’t have a third screen to use it when it’s closed, and doesn’t have the folding screen technology like the Samsung and the Motorollas of the world. It is just a simple, lightweight productivity machine that can run two and more applications all at once conveniently.

As it stands now, the world of folding phones can really be segmented into three categories- the phones that can fold into more compact forms from the regular sized smartphones according to modern standards, the slightly hefty inward or outward bleeding edge all in folding phones, that can be used both as a regular smartphone when folded and as a tablet when unfolded, and the productivity powerhouse, the surface, which does not blow all the bells and whistles of a modern smartphones, but can surely get the job done for an overly productive person.

All said and done, what really does get in between you and your next shiny new folding phone? Well there are a couple of things. Firstly, the price. Folding phones of today start for as much as 1400 dollars, which, in Bangladesh, adjusting for taxes can exceed even 1.5 lacs. For this much money, you can get a very good windows convertible, or an entry level macbook, or even an ipad, all of which can do a lot on a productivity standpoint. Moreover, these are more likely to be more durable than the folding counterparts.

Secondly, the folding technology is not there yet. Sure, you can buy one of those and use them, but they are so sensitive that even a light scuff mark or a fatal drop can render your thousand- dollar device completely useless and you would require a fortune to repair the damage. The screen technology still has a long way to go. The scientists are yet to invent a material that incorporates durability with malleability.

Lastly, companies like Apple are pushing on AI technology on their products. Their recent inclusion of LiDAR sensor in their 2020 iPad Pro is the proof that they have the intention to work further with Augmented Reality. It is rumored that the future iPhones will implement the same technology. The future is probably an uninterrupted continuity in the usage of our devices. So much that we would not have to use multiple devices in the first place. AR could be a perfect step forward towards this dream of continuum.

Or just maybe, folding phones really are the future. Nobody can tell, because technology moves at an exponential rate. Even 20 years back, mobile phones were a chunky and expensive piece of tech that only elites could own. We probably are standing in the same point in the history now. But at this moment, foldables might be the commodity of the rich and those who wish to live on the cutting edge of technological advancement, but it is yet to become the future for the masses.