Samsung and LG, Foldable Tablets Are More Than Just a Gimmick: Phones that can fold in half have recently been popular, with manufacturers including Samsung, Oppo, and Motorola all introducing their own models. Apple and Google, among others, are said to be developing foldable versions of their flagship goods.
However, foldable tablets are what I’m most interested in seeing at CES 2023. Galaxy Tab-like gadgets from Samsung and LG, two of the world’s top display makers, can bend, fold, and slide into a variety of sizes and forms.
In a time when standard tablets are struggling to sell, these ideas have me questioning if foldable tablets have a future at all. What can be said with certainty, though, is that major tech firms like Samsung and LG, as well as PC manufacturers like Lenovo and Acer, are considering it.
A foldable tablet makes more sense to me than a folding phone at this point.
At CES 2023, Samsung and LG will showcase foldable prototypes
Both Samsung and LG have announced foldable display concepts for 2023, with several of them being tablet sizes. Samsung’s Flex Hybrid, an innovative concept that can only be properly grasped in person, stole the show.
It folds up like a notebook and unfolds to expose a tablet-like display. The screen’s impressiveness, however, lies in the fact that it can be unfolded to increase in size and even alter its aspect ratio. The display may be expanded from 10.5 inches to 12.4 inches by sliding out the right edge of the screen. Samsung demonstrated this feature at its CES stand by showing how the screen’s resolution and aspect ratio adapt to display more information as the screen is stretched.
Foldable Tablets Are More Than Just a Gimmick Thanks to Samsung and LG
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Not for the first time has Samsung displayed such ideas. The accordion-like screens and displays that Samsung showed off in 2022 are still in use today.
Samsung also considers various possibilities for transformable tablets. During CES, it also demonstrated the Flex Slidable Duet idea, a screen that slides out from both sides to provide a larger window for playing games or watching movies. Samsung claims that the screen can be expanded to 17.3 inches from its standard 13 to 14 inches. Samsung also offers a device with a similar design, but with a single-direction expandable screen; it’s called the Flex Slidable Solo.
At CES, LG showed off two different foldable tablet concepts: an 8-inch tablet that can fold inward and outward, and a 17-inch gadget that folds in half. LG claims that its 17-inch screen has nearly no creases, and the company is marketing it as a large tablet or a more portable external monitor for a laptop.
The foldable tablets on display at CES are not the first of their kind. Lenovo offers the X1 Fold and the more recent ThinkPad X1 Fold; Asus has the Zenbook Fold OLED. LG’s 17-inch design seems to be aiming for the same general result that Lenovo and Asus have already begun investigating with their respective products.
The real question is whether or not these businesses can persuade consumers that foldable tablets have any real value. In an effort to solve this problem, Samsung is reportedly working on screens that can adapt their size and shape to the way the device is being used. From Samsung’s demonstration, it appears that the Flex Hybrid’s expandable screen will make previously hidden material accessible. The preceding video appears to be a demonstration of a shopping website, with additional items displayed as the viewer’s window grows in size.
Intriguing plans for the X1 Fold’s flexible display have already been conceived by Lenovo. When folded in half, the screen becomes a tiny laptop, and the Bluetooth keyboard that comes with the Lenovo can be placed over the lower half.
Not only is Samsung not the only business exploring rollable and slidable displays, but there are others as well. While TCL and Motorola have both conceptualized foldable smartphones, Samsung’s offering is more realistic because of the company’s prior experience with the form factor. Since Samsung is already the largest smartphone manufacturer and the number two tablet manufacturer in the world, its ideas naturally look more compelling than those of TCL and Motorola. Although LG is no longer a prominent player in the mobile market, it is a leading producer of laptop displays and computers.
The advantages of foldable tablets may outweigh those of foldable smartphones.
Foldable phones that fit comfortably in your pocket are convenient. However, a tablet that can perform the same functions is superior, mostly due to the fact that tablets are intrinsically larger than most phones.
Also, foldable tablets might not have the same design issues as flexible phones. A major issue I’ve had with the Galaxy Z Fold family of devices is how hard they can be to use when folded. There have been significant improvements to the cover screen since the 2019 debut of the Galaxy Fold, but the phone still doesn’t feel quite like a regular smartphone.
The Galaxy Z Fold is also quite thick when closed, making it feel like two phones placed together. Since you need to keep the phone unfurled to see what you’re shooting with the main camera on the Microsoft Surface Duo 2, I had a hard time finding a good method to hold it while reviewing it in 2021.
There’s a chance that foldable tablets won’t have these issues. You won’t be able to use a tablet with one hand like you can a phone. If a foldable tablet has a display on the outside, it probably won’t be used that way. I haven’t seen any foldable tablets with cover displays.
A tablet’s camera isn’t as essential as a phone’s, except perhaps for the occasional selfie or video chat. Taking images on a foldable tablet will definitely solve the difficulty I had with the Surface Duo 2.
Whether they ever become a commercial reality or not, the foldable tablets proposed by Samsung, LG, Lenovo, and Acer have portability as their key selling point. When packing for a flight, commute, or beach vacation, having a tablet that folds in half is a huge convenience. However, phones are already small in their current iteration, so it can be difficult to sell the value case behind phones like the Galaxy Z Fold.
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This doesn’t mean that foldable tablets are perfect, though; my colleague Dan Ackerman found design flaws in the Lenovo and Acer tablets he tested. In comparison to foldable smartphones, developing flexible and foldable displays for larger devices is anticipated to provide its own unique engineering hurdles.
Market analyst IDC predicts a yearly increase of 66.6% in global shipments of foldable smartphones in 2022. As a result, while foldable phones may face new challenges, manufacturers like Samsung have already addressed similar issues over the course of several product generations.
The tablet industry is in need of a revamp.
In the early stages of the epidemic, when people were more likely to engage in virtual activities like socializing, working, and going to school, tablet sales increased. While sales were down the year before, the outlook was not good. Third-quarter 2022 global tablet shipments were down 8.8% year-over-year, the fifth consecutive quarterly fall, according to IDC. The report suggests that the decline was caused by economic headwinds, specifically consumers’ desire to reduce their spending.
Even if new tablets with foldable displays became widely available, the high price of such gadgets would likely discourage many consumers. However, tablets have been in need of an update for quite some time. Since the introduction of Windows 8 nearly ten years before the release of the first iPad, the tablet market has undergone a dramatic change toward laptop-tablet hybrid products. However, except for getting bigger screens and receiving regular hardware updates, tablets haven’t changed all that much since then.
We had to wait for those hybrid technologies to iron out their quirks and become indispensable before we could rely on them regularly. The situation is likely to remain unchanged if foldable tablets become popular, mainly due to expensive pricing and software difficulties. But the ideas presented at CES demonstrate that development is undoubtedly occurring.
Every tablet, foldable or not, has the same overarching purpose: to enable you to do things like gaming, watching movies, reading, and working that your phone just isn’t cut out for. Finding innovative ways to increase that screen size is a natural progression, as Samsung has done with the Flex Hybrid’s slidable screen.
Although foldable smartphones may still be looking for their niche, foldable tablets appear to have found it.
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