If folding phones of the future look like this, count me in

Nokia Morph

Nokia's "Morph" concept was one of the precursors of foldable phones that we are starting to see today.


I have already attended an event with reporters and technical executives when Nokia presented an animated video of the most visionary foldable phone concept of the future that I saw. Believe it or not, it was in 2008. The animation featured a ridiculously thin glass slab that, once you have finished sending messages and taking calls, can fold in three to form a small area, then fold around your wrist – like a slap bracelet – and essentially turn it into a smart watch.

Even among the journalists, who are normally as demonstrative as the Secret Service agents, there were audible gasps in the room. It was the time when tech companies were putting their own cheerleaders into conferences and events, so these inspirations were real.

Of course, the previous June, Apple had released the iPhone to long lines of enthusiastic customers and a general fanfare. The big leaders of the telephony at the time, Nokia, BlackBerry, Palm, Motorola and Microsoft, continued to sell much cheaper than Apple. Publicly, they even sometimes threw out disdainful laughter on the iPhone, while in private, they were panicked at the thought of trying to match Apple.

The Nokia research team has produced the most imaginative answer to the iPhone with Nokia's "Morph". Of course, the technologies to bring Morph to life were not advanced enough in 2008. The Morph was primarily science fiction, but the tech sector knows the power of science fiction. inspire real products. The foldable OLED screens on phones that we are about to see in the weeks and months ahead are an important step in that direction.

Collapsible items have already slipped into pole position as the next big mobile business, although most of you probably do not know why you'd like one at the moment.

While Samsung launched the current wave of foldable buzz last fall, Huawei, Xiaomi, LG, Lenovo and Motorola are all confirmed or rumored enter the fray, and Google has officially committed Android support for foldable screens. Even Apple has applied for a foldable phone patent in 2017, but do not expect a folding iPhone in the near future.

The reality is that the collapsible phones you will see in 2019 are essentially teasers. You will not have much trouble thinking about why you would not want collapsible devices that are about to hit the headlines. They will be twice as thick as current phones when folded and too big to fit in most unfolded pockets. With all this extra screen to feed, they will be battery hogs. There will also be very few applications and software experiences optimized to take advantage of their possibilities.

The most interesting thing about folding phones is not the first steps you will see in 2019, but the new world that will open for powerful designs like the Nokia Morph in the years and decades to come .

In the short term, the devices will try something a little simpler. Foldable smartphones coming out in 2019 are going to pitch as phones that double as tablets. They are going to be cumbersome, clumsy and expensive, but those who buy them will be mostly forward-thinking early users who want a peak in the future. You can also count on a few innovators who want to be perceived as avant-garde, because pulling a folding phone will certainly attract the attention.

But the future of phones converted into tablets will potentially become much colder and more functional in the coming years. The radical thinness of OLED displays will allow product designers to get pretty incredible options, even for phones that are simply converted into tablets.

Imagine a phone the size of the current phablet – the Samsung Galaxy Note 9, the iPhone XS Max or the Huawei Mate 20 Pro – but the device has a hidden trick. Imagine that you can slide on the screen with a specific gesture and that the screen unfolds and basically doubles, as I heard a product designer once speculate. The bottom of the phone on the main unit serves as a handle or handle – similar to Amazon Kindle Oasis.

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Foldables, 5G and the future of the iPhone in 2019


This device obviously would not work with a case and so it would need a more grippy surface than the current phones, but you get the picture. You have a main device capable of switching from an ultra-portable chocolate bar mode to a larger tablet mode to display content and function. Combined with a future version of a host technology such as the Samsung DeX – Although wireless – this device could have even greater potential.

Then the next step for foldable phones will be to turn into portable devices. As CNET's Shara Tibken reported on Saturday, TCL is already working on a smartphone that could bend around your wrist to become a smart watch. But the vision of phones that could turn into wearable devices is far greater than that of TCL, as we saw more than ten years ago with the Nokia Morph.

Let's not forget that this computer we have in our pockets is a modern miracle. Calling a phone, it's like calling a plane to the space shuttle. Even just two decades ago, if you had told us everything we would do with these little machines today, most of us would have been rather stunned.

What these devices do in two decades and how they continue to advance is not likely to slow down sooner. So do not judge the first steps of foldable phones by the designs you will see in 2019, because their future will be much more magical. It will probably be much closer to the Nokia Morph.

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