Remember when Samsung launched the first foldable phone? We never thought that the daunting step by the South Korean giant would pave the way for other OEMs to launch their iterations and finally create a niche for the design. The best part about foldable phones is that some of them can also be called foldable tablets.
Today we have a slew of foldable phones that qualify for being called a tablet. Brands like Huawei, Motorola, Xiaomi, LG, TCL, and others have added a foldable phone to their arsenal. Still, Samsung is the most significant contributor with several foldable phones under its name.
Foldable phones have set the standard for themselves by giving the best of both worlds to users. With a foldable phone, users legit have a perfect mix of a phone and a tablet. Many of these phones offer a tablet-like experience in their open state, making us call them foldable tablets.
However, not every foldable phone can be called a foldable tablet. For us, foldable clamshell phones do not qualify the standard. Their screen size does not comply with tablet standards. Phones like the latest Moto Razr do not offer a tablet-like big screen when unfolded.
In this article, we are going to list the best foldable tablets of 2021. The devices featured on this list have a bigger screen real estate that provides a wholesome tablet and phone experience.
Before we take you through the list, here’s a little disclaimer. We have not reviewed any of these devices but conducted our research by evaluating reviews by some leading tech publications. The reviews helped us understand every device’s pros and cons and what makes them “the best” in the segment.
The Best Foldable Tablets: An Overview
Here’s a quick overview of the devices we have featured on this list. These are the best foldable tablets that we recommend:
- Best Foldable Tablet Overall: Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 (on Amazon*). The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 takes the top position as the best foldable tablet as it offers a perfect mix of design and performance. Samsung did an outstanding job on the device and optimized its UI to work seamlessly with the foldable mechanism. You get a powerful smartphone cum tablet with the Galaxy Z Fold 2.
- Best Foldable Tablet With Latest SoC: Xiaomi Mi Mix Fold. The Mi Mix fold is one of the most recent foldable tablets on this list. It is a powerful device with the latest Snapdragon 888 chipset. Boasting a similar design as the Galaxy Fold 3, the device is one of the best alternatives for Samsung’s best foldable offering.
- Best Foldable Tablet With Sophisticated Camera Setup: Huawei Mate X2 (on Amazon*). The Huawei Mate X2 is one of the best flagships by the brand. The USP of this foldable tablet is that it sports a quad-camera setup with a 50MP primary sensor. The only shortcoming with this almost perfect offering is the lack of Google apps support that compromises the overall experience.
- Best Foldable Tablet By Microsoft: Surface Duo (on Amazon*). The Surface Duo is a foldable tablet by Microsoft. It is the only device by the brand to run Android OS. It is a decent pick for those who want more screen real estate and do not mind the hinge between two screens.
- Best Foldable Tablet With Quirky Foldable Mechanism: Royole FlexPai. This one carries the tag of being the first-ever commercial foldable phone. Although not as popular as other brands on the list, the Royole FlexPai is a decent entry into the foldable segment. The most noticeable feature of this foldable tablet is its quirky folding mechanism that makes its design visibly different than conventional devices.
The Best Foldables: A Detailed Look
Let’s check them out in more detail.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2
The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 is arguably the best foldable phone out there. It reveals the biggest screen size at 7.6-inches when it unfolds. It creates a whole new niche for itself with its display size, so much so that we want to call it a foldable tablet instead. This device folds like a notebook and reveals a smaller display on the outside, giving it a double edge to work as a conventional smartphone.
Of course, the folding design presents some side-effects like the crease at the center, but Samsung lets users use it smartly. One can even use the crease to their advantage by loading apps side-by-side like a dual-window feature at its best.
When you unfold the phone, it presents you with a full-screen real estate that works effortlessly for photo-editing apps. Along the same lines, mobile gaming also gets better with a bigger screen and a 120Hz refresh rate. You get the best graphic performance.
The Galaxy Z Fold 2 brings the best of both worlds as you get to use it as a phone and a tablet. When folded, you get a small screen that’s perfect for doing smaller tasks like messaging or browsing through apps like Instagram. You can use the bigger screen for other tasks like editing, watching videos, gaming, and more.
You get a bigger screen at 7.6 inches (2208 x 1768 pixels resolution) when you unfold the device and a smaller 6.2 inches display (2260 x 816 pixels resolution) when you fold it.
Under the hood, a mighty Snapdragon 865+ processor powers the device with 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. It weighs just 282 grams. A 4,500mAh battery backs the device that Samsung claims offers up to 18 hours of backup on moderate usage.
For optics, you get a 12MP+12MP (ultra-wide)+12MP (telephoto) triple camera setup on the rear with 2x optical zoom and 10x digital zoom. It has a 10MP selfie snapper on the front cover and a 10MP selfie camera on the main display.
The Galaxy Z Fold 2 makes for the best option for a foldable tablet on the market, but it also has a few disadvantages, like it is way more expensive than a regular tablet. You can buy one of the best flagship tablets at $2,000. And even at that price, you miss out on some features like water resistance.
Xiaomi Mi Mix Fold
Xiaomi is one of the latest OEMs to enter the foldable segment. The company recently launched the Mi Mix Fold – a beautiful foldable smartphone featuring an 8.01-inch OLED display that’s large enough to be called a tablet. The Mi Mix Fold has an inward folding design like the Galaxy Z Fold. The external or outer display is 6.52-inches.
The inner display boasts a 60Hz refresh rate with HDR 10+, while the external display gets a 90Hz OLED display with HDR10+. The phone also features a side-mounted fingerprint scanner. It runs Android 10-based MIUI 12.
Under the hood, the latest and greatest Snapdragon 880 chipset powers the device with up to 16GB of RAM and 512GB storage (depending on the variant you go for). Xiaomi has included a big 5,020mAh battery with support for 67W charging.
There is a triple camera setup on the device, with a 108MP Samsung HM2 primary sensor, a 13MP ultra-wide sensor, and an 8MP sensor that completes the mix. Xiaomi has also integrated the cameras with the Surge C1 image signal processing chip to deliver low-light performance, autofocus, auto-exposure, and auto white balance. On the external display, the phone sports a 20MP selfie camera.
Design-wise, Mi Mix Fold looks like a clone of Samsung’s Galaxy Z Fold 2. But on the inside, both the phones are quite different. Xiaomi attempted to give a wholesome tablet experience with the MIUI 12, offering a desktop-like UI that works seamlessly on the device’s larger inner display. Xiaomi’s MIUI does a better job at giving a tablet experience than Samsung’s OneUI that has a few limitations.
The Mi Mix Fold should be in the first position, but the only reason we are listing it below Samsung is availability. There are thin chances for the Mi Mix Fold to get a global launch. The device recently went on sale in China, and Xiaomi has not given any hints for international availability.
Huawei Mate X2
Huawei’s take on the foldable smartphone comes in the form of Mate X2. Although the company is going through a rough patch due to the US trade ban and chip shortage, it does not make its powerful foldable offering fall short. The Huawei Mate X2 is a well-rounded foldable tablet to consider. This inward folding device features a wholesome 8-inch OLED display with a 90Hz refresh rate when unfolded, and it becomes a compact smartphone with a 6.45-inch OLED screen when folded.
Under the hood, Huawei powers the foldable tablet with its in-house Kirin 9000 chipset paired with 8GB of RAM and up to 512GB of expandable storage. Concerning optics, you get a quad-camera setup with a 50MP primary sensor, a 16MP ultra-wide lens, a 12MP telephoto sensor, and an 8MP super zoom sensor. On the outward secondary screen, you get a 16MP camera that comes in handy for clicking pictures when in a compact shape.
Due to the US trade ban, Huawei has also lost Google’s support for Android, but the Mate X2 still runs Android 10-based EMUI 11 on top. It lacks Google apps like Maps, Assistant, and more. Recently, Huawei has come up with its own operating system called Harmony OS.
We have not reviewed this device yet, but we can say that the Mate X2 is a great device going by reviews of some leading publications. One of the shortcomings of the phone is that Huawei is losing ground due to the lack of Google support, and with the US trade ban, the future seems a bit dicey. Another drawback appears to be the pricing; considering the setbacks in software support, it does not justify the high pricing.
Microsoft Surface Duo
The Surface Duo is the first Android-based tablet by Microsoft. It is the first foldable that does not follow the inherent design. The Surface Duo is a foldable device that uses a hinge to join two screens to fold. It does not have a foldable screen but two screens that fulfill the mechanism. Although it does not feature an advanced foldable design, the Surface Duo manages to deliver a decent experience with two screens that can fold and unfold like a notebook.
You get two screens measuring 5.6-inches, each with 1800×1350 pixels resolution. Together, when unfolded, they make a big 8.1-inch screen. Although they have a hinge combination, you can easily use one app on the large screen or two apps simultaneously on one screen each. Users can also split the bottom display for keyboard functionality.
You get a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor under the hood, with 6GB of RAM and up to 256GB of internal storage. You get dual batteries on this one that together creates a 3,577mAh backup. The tablet gets a single 11MP camera on top of the inward folding right display panel. It doubles as a selfie camera when users rotate the panel.
We think that the Surface Duo deserves a spot on this list, but it comes across as a bit lackluster compared to the other devices. The features on the device are a bit dated for 2021.
Not many know that the first foldable smartphone cum tablet was not by Samsung, but Royole Flexpai. It was the first commercial device featuring a foldable screen. You have not heard more about it because of the mixed reviews it received due to its unpolished and quirky design mechanism. You see, unlike the Galaxy Z Fold by Samsung, the folding mechanism on this one was a bit weird and felt unreasonable to use as a smartphone too.
We are featuring it on our list because it has a screen that becomes more than 7-inches when unfolded, making it better to use as a tablet. The Royole Flexpai packs a 7.8-inch screen with an aspect ratio of 4:3 and 1920 x 1440-pixel resolution. When folded, the device splits into two displays — featuring a 16:9 aspect ratio on one side and an 18:9 aspect ratio on the other side.
For optics, you get a dual-camera setup with a 20MP telephoto lens and a 16MP wide-angle lens. The device can go on folding from 0 degrees to 180 degrees. One of the primary reasons this device lags behind others on the list is its slow software that delivered a sluggish response time reacting to its folding abilities.
What to look for in a foldable phone
You need to consider several factors when buying a foldable phone, such as software support, custom features, pricing, built, and more. And if you want a foldable phone as an alternative to a tablet, you will have to consider the screen real estate; the larger, the better.
Foldable phones have come a long way, and foldable phones by Samsung, Xiaomi, and Huawei have pushed the boundaries with their software optimizations. The phones by these brands adjust the UI according to the screen mode, from compact to tablet. And, of course, the hardware needs to be top-notch to handle all the mechanisms.
There’s always a price to pay when you want the most sophisticated tech. If you have made up your mind to buy a foldable phone instead of a conventional tablet, then you’ll be shelling out more moolah. Yes, there are cheaper alternatives, but they are more of a liability with their software and design limitations.
Go for a foldable phone that has a proven design mechanism and software support. We highly recommend the Galaxy Z Fold 2. It is the best on this list.
How do OEMs optimize software on foldable phones
Operating systems like Android come with a built-in ‘Screen Continuity’ support, making it easier for developers to optimize their apps according to the display mechanism on foldable phones. The feature lets apps adjust automatically according to the big and small screen sizes. Additionally, Google is also encouraging developers to consider other features like multi-display support to make the app’s movement even more seamless on foldable phones.
The Future of ‘Foldable’ is ‘Rollable’
Technology is nothing if not evolving, that’s what is happening with the future of foldable phones. Thanks to the continuous developments in design, we are now seeing rollable displays coming into form. This year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) was blessed with the showcase of some prototypes with rollable displays.
We got a sneak peek at rollable smartphones by brands like Oppo, TCL, and LG. Although LG is now out of the smartphone business, we wonder what will happen with that futuristic prototype. But we still have got TCL and Oppo, who will soon be launching their first smartphones with rollable displays. And we believe that these displays would come in more handy as tablets.
TCL’s rollable concept has a compact display at 6.75-inches which expands to a 7.8-inch screen when the rollable feature is put into action. Unlike foldable phones that stick to inward folding or clamshell folding mechanisms, the rollable displays use a motorized chassis to roll out the extra screen.
Oppo’s rollable phone has also leaked in a hands-on review video, and it looks like the real deal! It is a genuine alternative to a conventional tablet. The display seamlessly switches between a 6.7-inch OLED screen and a mini-tablet-like 7.4-inch OLED screen. The rollable mechanism gives it better portability, and the large display can deliver an extraordinary experience when watching videos or playing games. Check out the video here to see it in action.
We think that rollable phones could prove to be better alternatives to tablets than foldable phones. The motorized mechanism makes them more effortlessly futuristic and also more portable. Of course, durability would be debatable, but that’s also the case with foldable phones, right?
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