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You're thinking about foldable phones all wrong

The recently unveiled foldable phones are astonishing, both in terms of the technical aspects, but also their eyewatering price tags. The Samsung Galaxy Fold, announced just days before MWC, wants to retail for € 2,000. At € 2,300, the Huawei Mate X is even more expensive.

Make no mistake, these are expensive phones. Punches can easily expect to pay northwards of $ 100 per month. But the thing is, the first generation of foldable phones are not mass market handsets.

Developer kits ̵

1; or dev kits, for short – are always expensive. Always. When Microsoft introduced the HoloLens in 2016, the inaugural dev kit cost € 3,000. The Microsoft Azure Kinect hardware, which allow developers to build computer vision applications, costs $ 399.

It does not matter. Devs wants to buy them. Why? The first reason is the most obvious – because they can use them to build apps and make money. They're just another business expense. If you build the next million dollar app, € 2,300 is just a drop in the ocean. It's a rounding error. It's nothing .

Obviously, consumer purchasing habits are different, and most people want wince at spending € 2,300 on a phone – even if it's arguably the most innovative, genre-bending phone on the market. Business users, on the other hand, just want to spend the modern-day equivalent of $ 10,000 on a single desktop computer in the 1980's.

And it's worth remembering that foldable phones are a radical new evolution in mobile technology. Nothing like them has existed before, and developers want to make sure they can seamlessly transition between smartphone and tablet experiences. Why? Because foldable phones will eventually hit mainstream saturation. It's a given. A foregone conclusion.

When Huawei and Samsung eventually recoup their R & D costs, and then they plummet, bringing foldable phones to the masses. And that's saying nothing about the inevitability of copycat devices from other manufacturers. The pace at which Shenzhen's mobile manufacturers adopt trends is absolutely staggering. Apple launches the iPhone X in 2017?

There's another reason to think of these devices as developer kits – because Huawei said so, in a very nudge-nudge- wink-wink way.

Okay, maybe I'm reading into things a bit too much, but hear me out. In a press conference on Sunday, a representative which unbelievably coy about whether the Mate X would be mass produced or released in a limited run. That extremely telling.

I mean, you can think of another example of a mobile exec being unwilling to confirm or that they were mass producing their latest flagship? I can not, and I cover this business for a living.

I doubt many people want to buy the Mate X and Galaxy Fold. The price is just too high. But I think Samsung and Huawei are okay with that. Both are experts at operating at volume. They rightly recognize that these phones want to lay the groundwork for a flourishing ecosystem of apps designed for an inevitable deluge of foldable devices. And when they eventually introduce foldable technology to their more mass-market devices, they'll be positioned to profit from it.

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Published February 25, 2019 – 23:05 UTC

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