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If the foldable phones of the future look like that, count me



  Nokia Morph

Nokia's "morph" concept was a forerunner of foldable cell phones that we are starting to see today.


Nokia

I was once at an event with journalists and technology leaders when Nokia showed an animated video of the future's most visionary concept of the foldable phone I've ever seen. Believe it or not, it was in 2008. The animation contained a ridiculously thin sheet of glass that, after you had finished sending messages and answering calls, folded down in a small area and then around yours Wrist flaps can – like a slap bracelet – and essentially turn into a smartwatch.

Even among journalists, who are usually as demonstrative as Secret Service agents, there was audible wheezing in the room. These were the days before technology companies planted their own cheerleaders at conferences and events, so those breaths were true. Of course, Apple had released the iPhone in June in front of long series of avid customers and much general fanfare.

The big phone leaders of the time – Nokia, BlackBerry, Palm, Motorola and Microsoft – continued to outperform Apple with large margins. In public, they sometimes even threw repellent laughter over the iPhone, panicking to try to match Apple.

Nokia's research team has achieved the most imaginative response to the iPhone with the Nokia "Morph". Of course, the technologies that brought the morph to life in 2008 were not far enough advanced. The morph was mostly science fiction, but the tech industry knows the power of science fiction to inspire real products. The foldable OLED displays on phones we will see in the coming weeks and months are an important step in this direction.

Foldables have already slipped into pole position as the next big thing in the mobile space, though most of you are probably not sure why you want one right now.

While Samsung with its Galaxy Fold leads the current wave, Huawei, Xiaomi, Lenovo and Motorola are all confirmed as or rumored Android support for folding screens. Even Apple has registered a foldable phone patent in 2017 – but do not expect a folding iPhone in the foreseeable future.

The reality is that the foldable phones you'll see in 2019 are mostly teasers. You will not have much trouble thinking about reasons why you do not want the folding devices that will dominate the headlines. They will be twice as thick as today's phones when folded up and too big to fit in most pockets when unfolded. With all the extra screen for the power supply they will be battery eaters. There will also be very few apps and software experiences that are optimized to take advantage of their capabilities.

The most interesting thing about flipping cell phones is not the first steps you'll see in 2019, but the new world that will open up in the years and decades ahead for powerful designs like the Nokia Morph.

In the short term, the devices will try a little less complicated. Foldable smartphones launched in 2019 will act as phones for tablets. They will be bulky, unwieldy and expensive, but the people who buy them will usually be bloody early adopters looking to see the future. You can also count on some innovators who want to be seen as a tech forward, because pulling out a flip phone will certainly attract attention.

But the future of cell phones being transformed into tablets may become much cooler and more functional in the years to come. The radical thinness that OLED screens can achieve opens up some incredible options for product designers – even for phones that are easily transformed into tablets.

Imagine a cell phone the size of today's leading phablets – 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 could swipe the screen with a specific gesture, and the screen flips and doubles in size, since I'd once heard a product designer once speculated. The bottom of the phone on the main unit serves as a handle or handle – similar to the Amazon Kindle Oasis .


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Obviously, this device does not work with a case, so it needs a smoother surface than today's phones, but you get a picture. They have a core device that can switch from an ultra-portable candy bar mode to a larger tablet mode for viewing and working with content. Combined with a future version of docking technology such as Samsung DeX – albeit wireless – this device could have even greater potential.

Then the next step for folding phones becomes wearables. As CNET's Shara Tibken reported on Saturday, TCL is already working on a smartphone that could bend around her wrist to become a smartwatch. However, the vision of mobile phones turning into wearables is far greater than the concept of TCL, as we saw more than a decade ago with Nokia Morph.

Let's not forget that this computer that we carry in our pockets is a modern wonder. If you call it a phone, call the space shuttle an airplane. If you had told us everything two decades ago what we would do today with these small machines, most of us would have been quite at a loss.

What these devices will do in two decades and how they progress will not slow down that fast. Do not judge the small steps of foldable phones by the designs you will see in 2019, because their future will be much more magical. It's probably much closer to the Nokia Morph.


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