Was Apple right? At only $500, the cheapest folding phone ever proves price was never the problem


At around $400 in China and $500 in the US, the Nubia Flip is now officially the most affordable (globally available) folding phone you can buy. And that’s a big deal! It’s happening! The thing we all asked for… Folding phones are… “cheap”. Tell your friends!

Jokes aside, “cheap” clamshell folding phones are indeed something the smartphone market has been missing for a while now, but now that they are here… I’m starting to doubt people will clean off the shelves. 

To put it plainly, I most certainly wasn’t convinced to buy a $1,000 clamshell folding phone 2-4 years ago, and now that the cheapest available option goes for half the price, I’m still not quite sold…

So, the mid-range nature of the Nubia Flip is only half the story here… What’s the rest of it then?

$500 clamshell folding phones are here and that’s awesome… but were high prices the reason foldables haven’t gone “mainstream”?

To be fair, folding phones (especially the clamshell kinds I’m focusing on here) are selling better than ever, mostly thanks to Samsung’s global presence, and Huawei’s dominance in China. Therefore, I can’t dub them a “failure”. But not being a failure, doesn’t mean they are a runaway success either.

I like to judge a phone by how “easy to recommend” it is in the wider context of the smartphone market, so the obvious question to answer here is… Would I buy the $500 Nubia Flip for (say) my mother?

While I’m sure she’d appreciate the cool flip factor, and the fact that the Nubia Flip becomes more compact when folded, she’d still be doing away with SO many extra features she’d get with a “normal” phone in this price category – like Samsung’s Galaxy S23 FE (now just 500 bucks in Europe).

Of course, it’d be more fair to compare a “normal” Samsung phone to a folding Samsung phone, but even in the case of the (now affordable) Galaxy Z Flip 4, you’d be losing out on durability, a better camera system with optical zoom, longer battery life, and dust-resistance.

And… we’re back to square (or rather rectangle) one.

It’s the moment of truth for folding phones: At $500, there are no more excuses if foldables fail to reach “mainstream success”

The “problem” (I believe) is that most people seem to share my feelings about folding phones – if they are aware of their existence, or care about them in the first place.

Now that they are “cheap” and globally available, if $500 clamshell foldables fail to make their mark on the market, this potential failure to reach mainstream success could very well prove they were never the “future” of smartphones in the first place. In a way, it’s the moment of truth for foldables.

High prices used to be (and still are) one of the major drawbacks of most folding phones compared to traditional slabs, but this argument (or excuse) is starting to become less and less relevant as folding phone prices are coming down.

Hey, perhaps Apple was right all along? Maybe people don’t want folding phones?

Do folding phones still have a chance to take over the world, or were they always a “transitional piece” of the “future”? Maybe Apple was right!

Frankly, I don’t think “Apple was right”, since I’m not sure Apple won’t actually come around, and give us a folding iPhone – whether that’s next year, or in four years, for example.

Moreover, there’s another important piece of the puzzle, and that’s folding tablet-style phones, which are yet to go “cheap”. Perhaps large foldables, as the more capable variation, will make all the difference? Or maybe not…

For the record, the latest few folding phones from Samsung & Co have been pretty well-reviewed, receiving praise from us and virtually all other media outlets – especially the likes of the OnePlus Open and Honor Magic V2 So.

We’ve talked about this before, but it’s quite likely that folding phones are just a transitional piece/moment before the “real deal”, which is… Rollable phones? Or the Humane AI pin? Or whatever the Rabbit R1 is?!

What’s your take? Are foldables here to stay, or are their days counted? Can Apple enter the market and Z Flip things around? Not impossible if you ask me!

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