Have folding devices really come of age? A quick walk through the evolving picture… #GalaxyZFold2 #GalazyZFlip

I have been desperate for a pocket sized portable computer for years. Way back in the days when things were in black and white I used something called an HP OmniGo. It had handwriting ability, it had the infamous HP-12C calculate included and, to be honest, it was effectively was a glorified calculator. It had calendar, spreadsheet and word editor ability, but not much more and managed to eat batteries faster than someone visiting a McDonalds after lockdown lifted. At the time it was pretty leading tech, but it was limited in what it could do…

HP OmniGo 100

A few years later in invested in another device, something called an MC12. It was made by Ericsson and was a machine running Windows CE.

It’s as a cracking device and did most of what you would want it to do and had the familiar look and feel to the PC. Windows CE ran software that was a bit like Windows 95 / 98 – and chinned a bar of Office software that was similar to that what was on the PC. It was clamshell, touch screen and ran Word, Excel and had a browser (all this this predates anything such as a WiFi etc). It was also the first device where I managed to rip audio and play it back portably. (We are talking 1998 here, so this is a LONG time ago!). Although a little bulky, if fitted into a jacket pocket and a bag without too much problem. And was SIGNIFICANTLY lighter than any form of laptop that existed. You could transfer files using the IR to a laptop so it has some light connectivity. It has its limitation, but it was a genuinely useful device – although ever getting something shared to the “main computer” was very clunky.

Ericsson MC12

Time moved on and so did the tech. I moved onto other devices, such as Window CE Handheld devices, and tried quite a bit of time with Nokia business machines, but none of those ever really managed to have the same level of engagement that a PC had.

With those failures under my belt I ventured into the Psion space and for quite some time used a 5mx. This was similar in design to the MC12, with additional features and much more power. The form factor was a little more bulky, and it still didn’t have the level of connectivity that would expect today, but it was a big step in the right direction. The keyboard was akin to a “normal” typing experience and the overall device was excellent. Even today these are still sort after on eBay.

Psion 5mx
(looks like a German version)

The devices so far still had very limited connectivity capability, and we were slowly seeing a world that was becoming a lot more connected. The Nokia devices so far has been pretty limited in their ability to do “PC” like tasks, and anything that involved email had either required a Bluetooth sync to a PC or a wired connection. This is where the Nokia Communicator E90 broke the mould…

The device provided a colour screen, online capability, browsing, as well as the office like tasks of Excel and Word. At the time the form factor was HUGE, as more and more phone companies were trying to make their phones as small as possible, the Nokia E90 was a giant.
In todays market, its actually really quite a small device, but at the time it was enormous.

The device provide a step forward in productivity but still didn’t manage to properly fill the gaps between a PC and a mobile / clamshell device. I still own this device.

Nokia Communicator E90

The next major step into the phone / PC tech was the original Galaxy Note. At the time it was the size of a small plate – again, compared to the tech of the time it was a MASSIVE departure from the continued miniaturisation that most phones were driving for. It was big, bulky and did most of what I needed it to do, but it was let down by software and capability within Windows office applications. Email was fine, but that was about it.

Samsung Galaxy Note (original)

So the next portable device isn’t strictly a phone but isn’t a PC (not really), but it is a very capable device. The Toshiba Libretto W100 was a dual screen folding PC. Imagine the new Microsoft Duo but just bigger. It ran a Intel PC processor and did everything you would expected a PC today – and with WiFi now much more common, it was pretty much always connected.
Issues with it were it was pretty bulky (think of it as a very heavy A5 note pad), it got REALLY hot and the fan sounded like a plane taking off whenever you did anything on it. The concept was excellent, but the technology just didn’t quite hit the mark. I still own this device – and its has Windows 10 running on it.

Toshiba Libretto w100

The next device to step into the ring was a Lenovo YogaBook. This was a remarkable piece of kit. It was thin, it’s as light and its battery lasted pretty much an entire day. The typing on it was somewhat mixed as it was a drawing pad / virtual keyboard, and the connectivity was pretty naff – WiFi was fine, but charging it and doing anything that might want you to use it on a big screen was very very limited. Again, think Microsoft Duo type thick / thinness and firm factor…

Lenovo YogaBook

We are now reaching pretty close to modern day tech. At this point I think its wort saying that I then ventured back to Android devices (I didn’t mention earlier but I had an Asus Transformer ‘tablet’ which was big, heavy and didn’t really offer much due to the poor software).
This time though it was a Samsung Galaxy S8 and / or the Galaxy Note 9. Both now have much matured software for Android, and both are now also using a much improved Office / Microsoft experience. The game change for these two phones was the ability to use something called DeX mode. If you had the cradle you could plug it in, then use any mouse / keyboard to have a very good PC like (its not a PC, but its pretty close) experience. Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook were also much better, that coupled with the always on experience of 3G / 4G and it was all a pretty good package. The issue was the screen size when things were in normal phone mode.
The Note 9 tried to help with its pretty funky S-Pen, but it wasn’t and still isn’t a great experience.

Galaxy Note 9

This now brings us bang up to date. We have the 2019 iPad Pro. Yes, there were iPads before now – the iPad 2, the iPad Mini original and so forth, but none of them have really had the work focus that has been required, and the office experience had always been limited. That has changed since using the iPad Pro. The experience has been excellent, and in recent months / last year or so, the Microsoft apps have now started to improve significantly. Additionally, the iOS (or iPad OS) software has now started to focus on people who really need to have productivity using the ‘normal’ apps, and things like decent keyboard support, the new mouse support (although its still pretty crap) and the fact you can now multi-screen some apps makes the whole thing a lot better. Probably the best experience for “PC like” experience so far, but it has to be said, it’s about the same size of a laptop, and in most cases more expensive, so not sure it’s really solved the problem… just make it more funky and expensive.

iPad Pro 2019

Which, after a very long and meandering (and somewhat expensive history) brings me to the here and now… the Galaxy Z Fold 2 5G. I have had it for about two or so weeks (managed to get it before it was released in the UK). The device has the form fact of a phone (although a bit thicker than many of the phones today), it has the ability to turn into tablet, and with the DeX software, it can easily turn into a PC experience. Is this the holy grail that I have been after for the last x number of years? Not sure, and I will let you know… so far it has been good, but I will leave that for a review at a later date. The form factor suggests we could be onto a winner…

Galaxy Z Fold 2 5G

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