Samsung has unveiled its long awaited foldable phone and urged Android developers to start writing apps for the new device. According to the company the phone will be mass produced “in the coming months.”
The South Korean tech company needs to perfect the foldable phone to reverse steep declines in profit for its mobile division and restore some of the cachet its brand has lost to Apple.
Justin Denison, Samsung senior vice president of mobile marketing, showed off the phone prototype with a screen he said measured 18.5cm (7.3in) diagonall, that is, when it’s a tablet it’s fully opened and then a phone when it’s closed. It uses a new display technology called Infinity Flex Display that lets you open and close the device over and over without any degradation.
“The Infinity Flex Display represents an entirely new mobile platform,” Denison said. “We’ve been living in a world where the size of your screen can only be as large as the device itself. We’ve added a new dimension to help you browse, watch and multitask like never before.” Foldable phones promise the screen of a small tablet in a pocket-sized device.
The foldable phone can run up to three apps at the same time, something Samsung calls Multi Active Window. Google’s Glen Murphy, head of Android UX, took the stage after Denison and said
Unlike Royole’s FlexPai which is the first foldable phone in the market, Samsung obscured the final look of its device. It placed it in a case to hold off revealing the design until a later event. The two sides of Samsung’s device also lie flat when closed. But this comes at the cost of there being noticeable breaks in its bezel, at least on the prototype demoed.
Samsung did not give media or developers a chance to touch or see the device up close which is why we can really be certain about many things on the phone.
Bob ODonnell, an analyst with Technalysis Research, said that while the bendable screen provided a wow factor, shoppers may not like the thickness of the folded phone or its price tag. he said “They’ll have to prove that it’s more than just a gimmick,” said O’Donnell. “But it’s smart to open it up to developers early to do different types of experiences.”
Finally, Samsung is among a handful of developers working on foldable phones. Huawei has said it is planning to launch a 5G smartphone with a foldable screen in mid-2019.
Samsung and Huawei, however, have been beaten to the market by Royole, a Chinese display making start-up, which last week unveiled a foldable Android phone with a bigger screen, priced from around $1,300. Royole said it would start filling orders in late December.