Image: Jack Wallen

There’s no way around it: 2020 has been one heck of a bad year for the majority of people on the planet. However, that doesn’t mean that everything was sucked into that awful black hole of despair. In fact, a number of technology sectors found 2020 to be the bearer of good news. Android was one such portion of tech that enjoyed a few positives during the Voldemort of years. For example, the Google Pixel 5 might not have lived up to the flagship moniker, but it’s a heck of a phone at a much more reasonable price point. Android 11 added some serious polish to what was already one of the best releases of the platform to date.

Android isn’t 100% in the clear though. Along with their successes, they’ve also had a few botches in 2020, some of which were critical security vulnerabilities found in older versions of the platform. One particular misstep was the volume issue discovered on some Pixel 5 devices. For me, however, one botch stands out above the rest. If you’ve been reading my coverage of Android for any length of time, you can probably see this one coming a million miles away.

The mistake to which I refer is… Foldable phones.

SEE: Samsung Galaxy Unpacked 2020: Galaxy Z Fold2, Samsung Galaxy S20, and more (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

The industry has been doing everything it can to make these bendy devices a reality, even when manufacturers have delivered expensive failure after expensive failure. They’ve tried every bit of marketing spin to avoid the fact that all of those devices will eventually wind up with unacceptable display creases and hinges that won’t hinge, but the truth is out there. You simply cannot fold a hard (or semi-hard) material over time without inducing an unwanted crease.

Although the dreaded display crease might be the worst thing to happen to one of these phones, when you’re dropping nearly $1,500 for that device, you can be sure that a failure on that level is simply not acceptable. That doesn’t even account for hinges that will eventually fail to open or close.

With that in mind, you’d have thought manufacturers of Android devices would simply give up on the idea and move onto something a bit more feasible, but they keep on with these best laid plans.

An analogy from another industry

The whole foldable phone shenanigan reminds me of another industry–bicycles. I’ve been an avid cyclist for a long time, and I’ve seen many a fad come and go. Over the past 10 years or so, it seems the bike industry is dead set on convincing consumers they have the solution for a problem that doesn’t exist. Let me explain.

The most popular mountain bike wheel size, for decades, was 26 inches. Then science came into play and decided that 29 inches was actually a better size, because it allowed for the wheel to more smoothly roll over obstacles. I bought into that and found the science to be spot on.

Then, the bike industry realized it could capitalize on such claims and decided that maybe 28 inches was better than 29 inches. It became pretty clear that this was just a case of an industry knowing it could create a new solution that wasn’t needed and consumers would lap it up.

The foldable is the 28-inch wheel of the phone industry. In other words, it’s not needed.

Sure, it would be cool to go all Star Trek-esque by whipping out your phone and flicking it open like a communicator, but how many times would you be able to pull that off before a hinge snapped?

Don’t get me wrong–I’m all for innovation. But, innovation should have a logical, driving purpose. Although innovation for innovation’s sake does serve a purpose, such as when the auto industry rolls out concept cars to show what it’s capable of doing, what consumers need are affordable devices that work and are dependable. Consumers don’t buy concept cars, they just ooh and awww at them. They buy cars that make sense.

That’s not the foldable phone.

When manufacturers of Android devices decided to march forward with the foldable device, it gave the platform its biggest mistake of 2020. In fact, I’d go so far as to say the foldable is to the phone industry what 2020 has been to years–we’ll all be glad to put them both behind us.

Hopefully 2021 will see Android device manufacturers focusing on innovation that makes sense and can be fully realized and marketed without enough spin to send the Earth in an opposite rotation.

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