<pre><pre>The best foldables become widescreen

Foldable devices become an exciting part of our future, but if 2019 has proven anything, it is that they are not yet ready to be part of our present. Royole & # 39; s was terrible, Samsung & # 39; s proved to be defective, Huawei is behind schedule and Xiaomi and Oppo & # 39; s alternatives are for the moment only social media videos & # 39; s. Even LG, the company that doesn't know how to say "no" to a bizarre idea, was thinking of foldables this spring and said it can't come up with a convincing idea. I think LG is right, because I believe that everyone who has made everything foldable so far is tackling it in the wrong way. None of them gets the shape of the thing right.


Most companies start with a smartphone as their standard folded form, and the most natural open state for such a plate inevitably leads to a square aspect ratio. I have had the Huawei Mate X, Royole FlexPai and a selection of collapsible TCL prototypes so far and my conclusion from those experiences is that the unfolded device, regardless of size, must have a widescreen ratio. It is more important what a fold is if it is unfolded than folded – or at least the shape that should be taken as a starting point.

The times I notice that the size of my phone's screen in these days is insufficient, there are few, but they are almost always the same: watch videos, view photos, and view websites that are designed for the desktop. All these advantages of a wide screen. Even things that phones are good at, such as browsing bottomless social media feeds or mobile gaming, also get a boost from an elongated display. My colleague Dieter Bohn reviewed Sony & # 39; s Xperia 1 this week and the thing he liked and liked most was the 21: 9 screen of "tall boy". Since telephones began to break down from the general 16: 9 aspect ratio in the direction of more elongated shapes in 2017, mobile apps, games and services have gradually adjusted their interfaces to better fit that design trend.

No one is coding custom software for square screens right now, and back at MWC in February, I was struck by how wasteful it was to play a YouTube video on the unfolded Huawei Mate X. The empty black space above and below the moving images was almost as large as the video itself. I loved the design, refinement, and apparent robustness of the device that I had before me, but I couldn't escape the feeling that it almost didn't take into account the way people would use such a gadget.

Make it 16: 9 in its unfolded state and a foldable appearance will be tailor-made for YouTube and the vast majority of streaming content and games. With the arrival of 5G, particularly next year, the variety and availability of streaming services will only increase. And whether you play at Google Stages or combine the latest HBO Max offer, a widescreen device is your perfect mobile partner.

TCL & # 39; s DragonHinge prototypes.
Photo by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge

I think it is of the utmost importance for Android folding systems to adapt their shape to the most used apps, because the experience of Android on a tablet was always disappointing. If you are Samsung or Huawei, it is a reliable way to fail if you try to sell your folding device as a productivity or work device. The iPad has a huge lead on that front, and once you have a size of 10 inches or more, I think a square aspect ratio works better. But to play the strengths of a smaller screen with a less optimized tablet operating system, Android-collapsible device makers should focus on making videos & games that look absolutely best, and those things are largely standardized around the classic 16: 9 wide-screen ratio.

My proposal, however, offers its own design challenge, because once you have set 16: 9 as the aspect ratio for the unfolded plate, look at a 16: 4.5 or 8: 9 aspect ratio, depending on where supposed single fold would be Nations. Here I give it to the designers: maybe the right solution is two folds, as Xiaomi has shown, or a more extreme version of the partial fold that the Mate X has. Or perhaps the first generation of foldables must accept that it cannot have a perfect smartphone on the outside, that is something that Samsung Galaxy Fold design recognizes with its thick external edges.

Samsung Galaxy Fold.
Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge


I understand why companies feel compelled to deliver an uncompromising smartphone plus a great tablet on the same device. We are consumers demanding.

The best devices from our current smartphone era have always been the ones that felt most efficient and perfected. Clumsy camera bubbles, such as those on the Nokia 808 PureView or Lumia 1020, have yielded beautiful pictures, but could not find the standard acceptance. When Avenir Telecom offered to build a phone with a sample of 18,000 mAh battery, it was 99 percent lower than its crowdfunding goal. However much we claim to tolerate an aesthetic compromise for a practical benefit, a quick glance at today's sleek, ever-thinner and increasingly fragile super-flagships suggests that consumers ultimately insist on beauty, efficiency, and function in one go.

I would like to have a Google Pixel of the future as big as the current non-XL device, although a bit thicker, that can suddenly unfold as a mini tablet that allows me to refine my photo edits. And when I want to kick back with the latest Verge Science video, no black bars (or notches!) would also be great fun. That could mean that I would have to give up usability in the folded state of the device, such as what is represented by the collapsible RAZR prototype from Motorola, but you know what? I would buy the foldable for what it can do if it is open, not closed, so I think I would accept it. Really, no external screen to blink messages might be an upgrade.

Foldable RAZR patent from Motorola.

Everything I've seen from Samsung, Huawei, Royole, TCL, et al. Suggests that foldable device designers still don't know for sure what the ideal shape should be. My main impression is that the technical challenge of just making the hinges work reliably and folding and folding out the screens without breaking is so great that other considerations are overwhelmed.

But user experience is not an additional concern. It must be of the utmost importance. And to create a radically new form factor and user experience, companies must think radically. I have seen far too many failed attempts to make smartwatches from leftover smartphone components. To make the foldable of the future, designers and engineers must start with a clean slate. And my modest suggestion is that it should have a 16: 9 aspect ratio.