Flip phone comeback: why it's very unlikely

samsung flip 2
© Samsung

Clamshell phones were all the rage before smartphones hit the market thanks to one design element: you open them, make a call, close them and they’re compact again. Some manufacturers, such as Samsung, have repeatedly tried to make flippable smartphones popular. Hardware manufacturer Gionee recently tried to buck the trend with a high-end flip smartphone. But in the era of smartphones, this design is simply not useful. Here’s why.

samsung flip 1
 Are flip phones going to make a comeback? / © Samsung

The Gionee W909 was released to try and revive flip phones, NDTV reported. After the Samsung Galaxy Golden 3 flopped and the LG Wine Smart suffered from its entry-level hardware, Chinese manufacturer Gionee has taken a stab with its own device. The W909 is faster and more powerful than previous clamshell phones. But is it sufficient enough to revive interest in flip phones? I think it’s unlikely.

gionee w909
The Gionee W909 was a boon to the flip phone market, but in Asia. / © ANDROIDPIT

The Gionee W909 runs the P10 processor from MediaTek, 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of internal memory. You don’t need to open it use it; it also works when it’s closed state via a 4.2-inch display on the cover. When you open it, the view switches to an identical display on the inside of the lid. Then you can use it with a numerical keypad and physical keys.

samsung galaxy golden n3
The Samsung Galaxy Golden 3 can not be overlooked. / © Samsung Global

With this operating principle, Gionee copied the Samsung Galaxy Golden, which was sold in 2013 in some Asian countries. The larger screen of the W909, however, is easier to use than the 3.7-inch display of the now small-seeming Galaxy Golden.

LG WineSmart Blau Rot
The LG Wine Smart. / © LG

However, the folding mechanism has its shortcomings. First, the folded device, at 16.5 mm, is considerably thicker than a conventional smartphone. A rigidly-constructed smartphone has a thickness of 6 to 8 mm normally. On the other hand, a hinge is a weak point in construction. Usual smartphone hazards include broken glass due to falls or scratches due to friction.

A hinge is a weak point in construction

And when I think back to my experience with the LG Wine Smart, I found little pleasure in folding an Android phone. The LG device felt more like a feature phone containing the Play Store. I used a Freetel flip phone and felt that it had some major software defects. The display rotation often failed or the inner display turned not after opening.

Where is the value in it? The advantage of flip phones is the saving of space. Smartphones have value because they can be used to run complex full-screen applications on a large touchscreen display. Because it seems absurd to me if I should suddenly ‘open’ this added value.

Motorola startac razr
The Motorola StarTAC and Razr V3 were milestones for the flip phone. / © ProhibitOnions, Steve Jurvetson

So I may as well give up a smartphone’s big advantage and buy a clamshell phone with a fuel-efficient operating system. That is probably cheaper and might give me a week of battery life. I remember stalwarts like the Motorola Razr V3 or the StarTAC, which were ahead of their time. But times change.

Maybe I feel things differently than you do. Would say that a flip phone running Android is a good idea? Vote in the poll below and share your opinion:

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Eric Ferrari-Herrmann

Eric Ferrari-Herrmann

Eric has been with AndroidPIT since 2014. He’s writing articles and reviews for the German website. Topics are mostly privacy and new technology but there's also the occasional piece on environmental sustainability.

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  • Frequency Blue May 16, 2016 Link to comment

    Hey, I am also using that Freetel Flip phone. What are those major software defects you were referring to?

  •   31
    Deactivated Account May 10, 2016 Link to comment

    still using a 12yr old Nokia clamshell, it's on its 2nd battery but gets used every day as a work phone, it's got a camera but the memory is measured in kilobytes lol so you can't store many images, but it's small and light, great for calls and text and the battery lasts for days... but mainly it's great cos it doesn't use Android...

  • Sherzod Abdujabborov May 10, 2016 Link to comment

    Flip Phones do not necessarily have to be bulky. Compared to the heyday of clam-shell phones, technology and phone parts have become leaner and slimmer. I am sure that phone manufacturers could come up with an elegant design.

    The problem I see is related to the whole mobile eco-system - apps and solutions are designed for the wide-screen experience. On the other hand, it all depends on the needs of the target users. If gaming and watching videos are not among top goals, perhaps that would not be a big problem.

    Lastly - 'the bigger the phone, the more impressive I am' phenomenon is also underway. People seem to enjoy their huge screens. Will this trend turn around at some point? not sure.

  • Dayle Steele May 10, 2016 Link to comment

    I wouldn't say it's boring. I can't really see the point of two screens. One is just as likely to break or get scratched like a normal smart phone. Wasn't that another reason for flip phones, to protect the main screen?

  • Andrew Burgin May 10, 2016 Link to comment

    If these type of phones offered two screens, they might attract consumers, and with screens getting more expensive to replace, people will be so worried of scratching or breaking there screens, just can't to see the pricing of the flexible screen phones for 2017,as phones are getting more expensive in 2016 already

  • Arpit Saini May 10, 2016 Link to comment

    I always wanted a flip phone but I was always handed down my elder brothers used phones.... now that I have the capability to buy them, they are not even made anymore (the above phones have not been released in the middle east...or atleast in UAE)

  • Parvind Chahal May 10, 2016 Link to comment

    this is something like using hand fans instead of electrical fans.......nobody wanna bulky phones these days every body is going for slim phones.....if companies think they will find customers with these shits thn they r misguiding themselves.

  • Alex May 10, 2016 Link to comment

    It might be cool to people to try flip phones, again I'm sure that it will definitely attract all the new age people who wanted to try new things !!flip phones may be a old idea, but it may become new trend in the near future who knows!!

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