Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 in hand closed up
Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 closed in hand

Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

Regardless of what each of us think in the media, the current selection of foldable devices gives a glimpse into the future of phones and tablets. They are more portable than their brick-like counterparts and open up many new design options. From a marketing perspective, foldable products are sexy and easy to sell to customers who want to be on the cutting edge.

They would likely be ubiquitous by now if they weren’t so expensive, but there’s another major caveat holding them back – their fragility. The 2021 folding screens are better protected than first-generation technology, but are still so easily dented or punctured that to use an S Pen with the Galaxy Z Fold 3, you’ll have to buy a custom version that retracts when you press it. The hinges on foldable devices tend to be both complex mechanisms and awful for keeping dust under the displays. Taking a foldable one on a camping trip would be a tempting fate.

With all of these problems, however, it’s not that regular phones aren’t vulnerable. We’ve gotten used to the idea of ​​over $ 1,000 mini-computers with fully exposed screens. Cases and gorilla glass made them practical, but the truth is, a lot of people still accidentally scratch and crack displays – often rendering them useless.

But what if foldable products could one day solve this problem?

Flip fantastic

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 notifications on the cover display

Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

Folding clamshell models like the Z Flip 3 might be the future of durability rather than a setback for an obvious reason: If a screen isn’t exposed, it’s harder to break. We already know this from classic clamshell phones, but it’s a history lesson that many of us have had to relearn the hard way. A colleague recently shared with me that every time he breaks a screen it was because he was dropped a phone on the go, rather than while he was actually using it. He complained that the worst thing that could have happened to him with a flip would have been to destroy the small external screen, which is not strictly necessary and easier to replace.

Folding clamshell models like the Z Flip 3 might be the future of durability rather than a setback for an obvious reason: If a screen isn’t exposed, it’s harder to break.

In fact, the Flip 3 has a lot to offer, including the fact that clamshells are cheaper foldable devices than phone-tablet hybrids like the Z Fold 3 or Mate X2, especially when it comes to the south. The Z Fold 3 costs a whopping $ 1,800 – even if you can afford the upfront price, replacing or repairing the device can be financially difficult. The Z Flip 3 remains expensive at $ 1,000, but it’s at least on par with other high-end phones, so repairs and replacements should be manageable.

It might even be a mistake to use full-size outdoor displays like the Fold’s. In the past, these were often uncomfortable compromises that were usually intended to save a few seconds when texting or calling. By eliminating one option, the Z Flip 3 improves both cost and resilience.

Patience is the word

Slide the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 mobile phone into the pocket

Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

To be clear – as of 2021, foldable clamshells like the Z Flip 3 and the Motorola Razr 5G will still be more sensitive than normal smartphones. Your screens must have aged, and the Flip 3’s IPX8 waterproof rating doesn’t keep the dust off. But it’s not hard to imagine that subsequent hardware will fix these shortcomings, especially since Apple and Google are rumored to be entering the foldable battle over the next several years, which should propel foldable innovation even further.

Eventually, this development could be enough to place foldable clamshell smartphones ahead of traditional rectangular smartphones in terms of durability. Things could be made even better by leaving out the rear glass and outer displays entirely, but while the first part is doable – a lot of people would probably rather have metal anyway – the second seems unlikely. The exterior of the Z Flip 3 has proven to be a good compromise between ruggedness and comfort. Not everyone has a watch to check, and it feels overkill to flip open a smartphone for the time, date, or notifications.

Related: How much does it cost to replace the screen on a foldable phone?

It’s really just a question of how long the industry will take. The first fold stumbled out of the gate because Samsung hadn’t anticipated fundamental problems, such as people mistaking a protective layer for a removable one. Clamshells also currently tend to compromise on features like cameras and battery life, be it for design reasons, cost offsetting, or both. In that sense, phones like the Z Flip 3 are a step backwards, especially since they don’t offer the functional advantages (or wow factor) of phone-tablet hybrids.

Trial by Fire has taught foldable manufacturers many lessons, however, and will likely continue to innovate where they need to be. You will compromise less over time, and one day we may not even think about closing a device to keep it safe in our pockets.

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