I am Excited About Folding Displays
First we saw the Samsung Galaxy Fold. It is expensive and looks fragile, but I was and still am quite excited about it. I used to love my 8.3” Android tablet. It was great for reading ebooks, surfing the web, keeping up with social media, and playing games like Pocket City. Sure, I can do some of these things on my phone. That’s what I do now. The experience just isn’t as pleasant.
It would be amazing to carry a tablet in my pocket. I’m just not excited about the price tag, especially when I consider how rarely I have the need to do anything productive away from the house.
My lack of travel isn’t a recent change
It isn’t just the pandemic keeping me at home. All my stuff is at home. I have an office at home. I have a 3D printer and CNC router at home. If I want to do something or work on something, I do my best to acquire the equipment to do it here.
I used to travel a lot. For a few years in a row there, I was probably out of town at least two months each year. I’m excited to be able to stay in town these days!
I suppose it depends on how you define travel, though. I’m typing this at a local park. I just rode my electric unicycle 3 miles so I could sit at a secluded picnic table to write these words for you. It doesn’t take much horsepower to run Emacs and chat with my friends on Discord. I am extremely over equipped out here right now!
The pandemic does keep me working from home even more than usual. I imagine most of you reading this are also stuck at home.
The Microsoft Surface Duo Android phone looks amazing!
I hauled a heavy 15” gaming laptop with a quad-core i7 processor and a discrete Nvidia GPU out to the park today. Packing this thing in my backpack and riding to the park works fine, but do you know what I thought of the moment I saw the Surface Duo?
Do you remember the folding Palm Pilot keyboards from 20 years ago? If I could find a Bluetooth keyboard like that, I could ride to the park with a Surface Duo in one pocket and a keyboard in the other. I could write blog posts and not need to carry a bag at all!
I’ve been using Tailscale for quite a while, so I’d also be able to ssh into any of my other machines from that Surface Duo. Even with a seam, that 8.3” screen would be quite usable for the task.
It is unfortunate that I’m so boring. Outside of this niche use case, how can I justify paying $1,399 for a phone? My Pixel 3a was only $335. There are plenty of reasonable Android tablets available for under $200. An HP Envy x360 2-in-1 with a Ryzen 4500U is only $800. I could buy all three and still have money left over, and that’s ignoring the fact that I already own the Pixel 3a.
Ten years ago, I would have ordered a Surface Duo immediately. Being able to carry that much screen in my pocket would have been impossible to pass up.
I already have a little purse of a laptop bag that would fit a modern 13” 2-in-1, and it isn’t much of a burden to carry it when I ride my electric unicycle!
The Lenovo X1 Fold
It seems too early to have much of an opinion about this interesting portable computer. There isn’t any hardware to see at this time. The site only has renderings.
Even so, I can’t help myself. I’ve been dreaming about a device like this for decades! Will the X1 Fold be exactly what I’ve always wanted? Almost definitely not! It is definitely a major step in the right direction.
The Lenovo X1 Fold looks like an overgrown Samsung Galaxy Fold. When closed, it looks like a tiny 7” laptop. When you open the laptop half-way, one half of the screen becomes a touch keyboard. I’m not excited about the idea of typing on that, but I could see this feature coming in handy.
You can unfold the X1 Fold all the way and it becomes a single 13.3” display. It even has a kickstand to prop itself up on. All you need at this point is a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse and you’re all set to do some real work.
I hear the pricing on the X1 Fold will be starting at around $2,500. That’s roughly what I paid for my Fujitsu P2120 ultrabook in 2003, so it seems like a fair price to me.
How would you use this thing? You might use the 7” laptop mode while sitting on the bus, then use the 13.3” mode with a keyboard at Starbucks. I could see bringing the X1 Fold down to the server room without a keyboard to do some basic troubleshooting.
I could also see myself using it as a 13.3” tablet on the couch. If I decide I need to reply to a comment or an email, it would probably be nicer to peck out a three-paragraph reply with the X1 Fold’s touch keyboard sitting on my lap than it would be using a regular tablet.
I’m going to make a big assumption here. Let’s assume that this thing works reasonably well. I’m not convinced that it will, but let’s give Lenovo the benefit of the doubt.
If I traveled a lot, I would happily spend $2,500 on a device like this. It takes the place of a tablet and a small laptop, but it has about half the footprint of a 2-in-1 like the HP Envy x360. That might be worth an extra $1,500 to me.
I don’t travel. Where were these devices when I did?!
I have to say the same thing about this as I did about the Surface Duo. I can get a phone, Android tablet, and a faster 2-in-1 for half the price of this thing.
I’m still really excited!
This is just the beginning. I always get excited when devices overlap. I used to carry a phone and a Palm Pilot. An Android phone does everything those two devices did plus a whole lot more. I used to own an 8.3” tablet, but now that my phone is nearly 6”, I don’t need the tablet any longer.
I’m excited about manufacturers finding new ways to get more screen real estate onto smaller devices. Anything I do on my workstation at home can be done on my laptop, but I work more slowly on my laptop. One 15.6” screen just can’t compete with two 27” monitors.
What device will I no longer need in five years?
I wanted to be able to say that these are two devices attacking the same problem from two different directions. The Surface Duo is a phone first, but it is also a tablet that fits in your pocket. The Lenovo X1 Fold is a 13.3” laptop first, but it folds down to be a one-handed 7” tablet.
That’s not what the Lenovo is. It is never a 7” tablet. When you fold the Lenovo, it is just closed. It is a rather novel device.
If this is only the beginning, what will we see over the next two or three years?!
If I were doing the sort of work or travel I was doing five, ten, or twenty years ago, I would snap these devices up in a heartbeat. They’re interesting machines, and they will serve some people with particular use cases extremely well. I’m just not one of those people any longer!
What do you think? Are you excited about folding screens? Would you pay flagship-phone prices for mediocre compute hardware that lets you fit a tablet in your pocket? Do you think the Lenovo X1 Fold is insane, or do you think it is genius? Let me know in the comments, or stop by the Butter, What?! Discord server to chat with me about it!