The recent ZTE Axon M smartphone has dared to do something wildly different from all other flagship smartphone makers. While at first it looks like any normal, unassuming smartphone, hidden around the back of the Axon M is a second display that turns this phone into a unique device, the likes of which haven’t been seen since the virtually unheard of NEC Medias W N-05E.
The result of that second screen is a smartphone that can do more than other smartphones, but also a tablet that can go more places than other tablets. More smartphone makes seem lined up to make a similar push for foldable smartphones, so get ready to understand what the big deal is and why you’re going to want one.
1. It’s an ultra-portable tablet you can stick in your pocket
No one wants to carry around more than they have to. In the past, if you wanted to have a tablet on hand, you’d likely have to carry around a tablet and a smartphone. With foldable smartphone, you’ve got both in one device.
Not only does a foldable smartphone remove the need to carry two devices, it’s also the friend of any traveler or commuter. You can enjoy entertainment on the train or on an airplane, yet fold it up and stick it in your pocket. Looking to the Axon M as an example, it’s folded dimensions of 5.94in x 2.82in x 0.48in are close to other flagship smartphone, but it can unfold to compete with 7-inch tablets.
Multitasking on a smartphone finally makes sense
The ability to split your smartphone screen and run two separate apps at the same time has been around for a little while now. But, let’s be real, who is trying to multitask with two small chunks of screen, one of which is likely half obscured a keyboard? And, no, App switching is NOT multitasking, folks.
Multitasking has made the most sense on tablets, but now it’ll make just as much sense on foldable smartphones. With a foldable smartphone, you can turn one display into two. So, when you want to multitask, you can fire up an app on one screen and put a second app on the second screen. Neither app has to get scrunched to the point of claustrophobia just to fit the other.
Your smartphone only needs one camera – its best camera
The ZTE Axon M only has one camera on it, a 20MP shooter capable of 4K video. This would sound like a huge mistake on any other phone, but thanks to the second display, one camera is all you need.
With a foldable smartphone, the second display makes it possible to take selfies and normal pictures just by switching which screen you use as a viewfinder. That means you always get the best picture and video, and your phone won’t need to have two cameras built in with the price of two cameras.
Foldable smartphones unlock a world of new features
Foldable smartphones have a lot of potential to offer features we haven’t seen before on smartphones. The ZTE Axon M, for example, lets two people watch videos together even when facing each other. It can also be used to play Battleship, since it can stand up so only one side is visible to each player.
What’s been done with foldable smartphones so far is just scratching the surface though. Once more manufacturers have foldables on the market, all sorts of new abilities are sure to crop up.
Games could be played with one screen committed to the game and the second committed to the controls. We could all finally be using QWERTY keyboards in landscape on our smartphones again without it taking up 90% of the display. Battleship is just one example of a game perfect for a foldable phone, but there could be a whole trove of new games made to fit perfectly on the new phone form factor.
Your current phone is just boring in comparison
Let’s be real, flip phones were cool and snapped open with a very satisfying click, but most of us probably wouldn’t trade our smartphone functionality just to hear that click again. Though foldable smartphones might not bring back that click, they definitely bring back some of that cool.
As slick as bezel-less smartphones look, they’re pretty 2017 at this point, and edge-to-edge displays only gave us a little bit more screen real estate. That’s nothing compared to the 100% increase in usable screen space that a foldable smartphone offers with a second display.
The Samsung Galaxy S8 might have had us feeling like we were holding light in the palm of our hand, but the ZTE Axon M and future foldable smartphones will have us feeling like we’re in Westworld desperately trying to shut down a flock of murderous androids. It feels that futuristic.
ZTE is ahead of the trend, while is Samsung is rumored to have a foldable smartphone and Apple has patents that hint as a future iPhone that could follow. This is where the smartphone is headed.
Brought to you in association with ZTE - follow along as our intrepid editors Matt Swider and Nick Pino road trip across the US to CES 2018. They're testing out the latest tech along the way, and you can keep track of their journey on The Road to the Show 2018 liveblog. Plus, we've got even more great tips on how to plan your next adventure.