Beneath the fold: The reality about Apple and foldable screens

It’s a cool technology, but Apple’s not too late to it.


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There’s a new technology on the streets (disclaimer: not actually on the streets yet) and it’s not coming from Apple so please prepare your large, novelty-sized forks to stick into the company.

Yes, foldable smartphones are here! Well, not here in the sense you can buy one yet (other than this atrocity), but both Samsung and Huawei have announced phones with folding screens that will be available in April and mid-year respectively. Thus, we can see the innovation is dead at Apple and the company is behind yet again. Just like it was in the digital music player market, the netbook market, the self-driving car market, the wearables market and the market for rocket-propelled pants.

Besides, wasn’t Apple the first to have a folding smartphone? So. Erm. Yes.

It is astounding to the horny one how people still don’t understand how Apple does business. This is covered material, people. Seems like some of you aren’t doing the required reading.

Apple doesn’t ship bleeding edge technology. It usually isn’t first to market. Elliot Loh summed it up perfectly:

One way to evaluate Apple: as creators of a category’s final form.

This is a great answer because it’s both correct—we’ve seen it in the personal computer, the smartphone, the digital music player and the tablet and it seems like it’s starting to happen with wireless headphones—and because it lets you make jokes about BEHOLD MY FINAL FORM.

If you wade past the pundits whose only Apple setting is DOOM and get to the people who’ve actually gotten close to these things (Samsung and Huawei aren’t even letting journalists touch them yet), you’ll quickly notice that these devices are pretty much prototypes, not consumer market-ready. Foldable phones right now aren’t so much pasta cooked al dente as they are pasta cooked Bert Dente, Al’s cousin who likes to just eat dried rigatoni right out of the box.

He thinks you get more fiber that way.

You don’t, Bert! That’s not the way that works! It’s the same amount of—oh, forget it.

This technology is in its infancy from a market perspective. Who knows how long these screens will last or what the best implementation is. On the Samsung, the screen is on the inside of the fold, while with the Huawei Mate X, it’s on the outside of the fold. If history is any indicator and Apple does ship this technology, everyone else in the market will suddenly start shipping foldable smartphones that weirdly look just like Apple’s.

Let’s also remember these devices come from a company not known for its great software and another known for its great relationship with heavily sanctioned nation states.

Still, despite all this, this technology is really, really cool. The Macalope knows 2016 seems like a million years ago, but it was actually only 15 years ago (based on our current reckoning of time) and that was when you first saw foldable smart devices in Westworld and thought, oh, sure, just like those jetpacks we never got.

Well, guess what, Bernard, they’re here. Well, not for you because they start at $1,980, but someone could buy one. Someone with enough money to drop two grand on an experiment. But Samsung and Huawei do deserve some credit for taking on the experiment.

As usual, the middle ground of this is more likely where reality lies. This is a cool technology that we’re likely to see more of in the future. But Apple isn’t anywhere near late to it.

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