Foldable phone a boon for ebook adoption?

Huawei & Samsung reveal their iPhone (& Kindle?) killers

The Galaxy Fold being shown off on stage at the Samsung Unpacked event
The Galaxy Fold being shown off on stage at the Samsung Unpacked event

When Samsung revealed it’s new Galaxy foldable phone last week, we thought they were miles ahead of their major competitors. But, within a few days Huawei demonstrated their, possibly superior, foldable. Superior? Well, time will tell. While it’s closed up, the Galaxy sports a small-ish screen on the outside, making it look like a standard, if chunky, smart phone. The main game is inside — the device opens like a book to reveal an elegant, almost-tablet screen that would be ideal for reading books.

By contrast, on the Huawei phone the screen is wrapped around the outside of the device.

The merits of this difference are difficult to assess, without having actually used the devices. But the concepts are so radically different that one design is bound to win hands down when it comes to usability.

And the stakes are huge. It’s been a long time since any phone company launched a new form factor or new functionality that amounted to anything more than incremental improvements.

It’s impossible to imagine that Apple isn’t baking something foldable. But they’ve already been beaten to the chase by two global, very agile companies for whom the urge to world domination of the mobile device market is bred in the bone.

Neither of these gadgets is cheap; they’re priced at US $2,000 or more. And, when Apple’s foldable finally kicks its chocks and takes flight, it sure won’t be any cheaper.

That means that it’s early days. Time + Scale + Competition = Price Deflation.

In the coming years, assuming reasonable adoption, foldables will only get cheaper, and only get better.

This development suggests an opportunity for ebook vendors who haven’t hitched their wagons to specific reader devices: Why would you carry around a single-function device when your phone will do the job just as well? And, if you’re an e-bookseller, why would you also be an electronics company (with all the horrors that involves) when such devices are doomed?

The points are moot until we actually see, and use, these things. Animated GIFs and boastful announcements are not reliable predictors of functionality.

I’m forever on the lookout for something to get excited about, and the advent of foldable phones is very exciting.

Stephen (CEO)

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