If 2020 will be the year of the tall phone, I want no part of it

Can we just not?

Credit: Samsung

Let’s just say no to tall phones, right now. 

It’s been a rocky 12 months since Samsung first teased its folding phone, with a sneak peek at the Infinity Flex display at 2018’s developer’s conference. But that’s not slowing the company down. At 2019’s keynote on Tuesday, Samsung showed off a new display concept that flips the folding phone concept on its head. Literally.

The new display folds open like a wallet, rather than a book, to reveal an ultra-wide inside screen. I’m not talking about a 16:9 phone like the Sony Xperia 1. Think more 25:9, like the candy-bar phones of old. Just, you know, with no buttons and a very tall screen.

To promote the new concept, Samsung touted the device will “easily fit in your pocket” when folded. When opened, Samsung says the tall form factor “changes the way you use your phone.”

Keep reading to find out why this simply won’t work.

samsung galaxy folds Samsung

The new Galaxy Fold design (right) doesn’t make as much sense as this year’s model (left).

The rise of tall phones

Samsung’s not the only phone maker teasing a ridiculously tall phone. Earlier this month Essential teased a “radically different form factor” with a picture of a handset that looked more like a remote than a phone. It showed off a few teaser images with a tile interface, skinny apps, and a experience built to “reframe your perspective.”

I have no reason to doubt any of these claims. But that doesn’t mean I have to agree with them. While a square handset would certainly fit in more pockets than something as big as the massive Galaxy Note 10+, that doesn’t speak to how easy it is to use when opened (or closed, but that’s another issue).

If there’s one universal fact to every phone that released in 2019, it’s that we can pick them up and instantly start using them. There’s no learning curve and no confusion. Even Samsung’s Galaxy Fold stuck to the same basic formula with its phone-to-tablet transformer.

But this new folding Galaxy Whatever is something else altogether. It doesn’t open to a bigger screen that lets you be more productive. It opens to a taller screen. I can’t even begin to comprehend how to use it with one hand, let alone the logistics of landscape mode. It’s a classic example of form trumping function. 

A tall order

Comparisons will immediately be made to the RAZR flip phones and the Nokia 8110, two phones that conjure nostalgia of the pre-smartphone days. Each groundbreaking in their day, they popularized the tall-and-skinny form factor with unique designs incorporating sliding or flipping mechanisms.

essetial phone 2 Andy Rubin/Essential

The Essential Phone 2’s tall screen is a head-scratcher.

But while I’ll always remember my RAZR with fondness, I’m not looking for another one. The flip phone had its day and its purpose, but an all-screen phone that unfolds the same way doesn’t make sense. I may have issues with the Galaxy Fold, but at least I can understand the point. Its tall-concept sibling, not so much.

If the physical size is confusing, think about the apps. It's hard enough to get Android developers to format their apps properly for notches and 19:8 displays. Now Samsung and Essential expect thousands of developers to dramatically rethink their user interfaces for products that will likely be flashes in the pan (or just plain panned). 

Assuming it runs a version of the same Android we know now—which seems likely given Samsung’s full-court One UI press—apps will need to be completely retooled lest they look ridiculous. The current versions of apps like Maps or Mail will be nearly impossible to use, and typing will be a nightmare. I don’t even want to think about games.

The future isn’t tall

It’s no secret that we’re at something of a crossroads when it comes to smartphones. For the better part of a decade, phones have been getting bigger, with more screen, fewer buttons, and less bezel, culminating in 6-inch-plus handsets that pick up fingerprints as fast as they speed through tasks.

But as the new decade approaches, the way forward for smartphones is less certain than ever. There very well may be a new form factor on the horizon that changes everything, like the iPhone did. But we’re probably going to have to suffer through a few stopgap designs before someone nails it.

In 2020, that may be the ultra-tall phone. Don’t be surprised if it’s gone by 2021.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.
Michael Simon

Michael Simon

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Brand Post

Shining a light on creativity

MSI has long pushed the boundaries of invention with its ever-evolving range of laptops but it has now pulled off a world first with the new MSI Creative 17.

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?