What is Samsung’s foldable smartphone and when is it coming out? : We have been hearing about Samsung developing a “foldable smartphone” for about a couple of years now. And while the concept might sound a bit outlandish, we do remember that the Galaxy Note Edge, which launched back in 2014 was quite eccentric and far-out back then. But look at Samsung now — all of its flagships have the signature curve at both sides of their screens.
What we are saying here is that Samsung is no stranger to experimenting and pushing the envelope when it comes to display tech. And the foldable smartphone isn’t exactly a secret — Sammy’s CEO of Mobile DJ Koh has openly discussed some of the concerns that go with developing such a project. While it is possible that this product might be delayed over and over again until the company believes it “got it right”, the latest news is that we might get to see it within a couple of months!
So, it’s a good time to take a look back at the leaks, rumors, and patents that would help us understand how and why that phone would function.
Why would a phone fold?
Samsung’s 2014 concept video for possible uses of foldable displays
Nowadays, we do a lot on our smartphones. We watch YouTube clips, some even go through entire movies, we read a ton of social media posts, answer to emails, edit our favorite photos, some even do work on their handsets. A bigger screen is certainly a good thing to have in those situations, but a smartphone should still be comfortable enough so that one can carry it with them at all times without being bothered by the device too much, right?
Samsung has always shown support for this type of poweruser — ever since it launched the first Galaxy Note and prompted the industry to go beyond the 5-inch display size (back in 2011, that was considered a huge phone!).
We believe that the foldable phone would be a natural evolution of that idea — it will be a compact device that can spread out to the size of a mini tablet, comfortable for both work and play.
OK, how will this thing be called?
A trademark for a Galaxy X popped up back in February of 2017, which was believed to be reserved for the foldable phone. Most people have been calling this project the Galaxy X for the last couple of years. The name Samsung Wing has also been spotted in a patent and it does sound like it suits a device, which folds down the middle, but we haven’t heard that one in a while. More recent rumors are suggesting that it would be called the Galaxy F — presumably standing for Galaxy Fold. Its display will also have its own name — it will, allegedly, be called the Infinity-V display, with the letter V representing the fact that the screen folds right down the middle.
What would the design be? Any hardware details?
There are a couple of ways a folding phone could work. It could either wrap around itself, closing the display in, or fold outwards, leaving a screen area to cover the front and back of the device. A Samsung patent, spotted back in January of 2017, depicted a phone with a 5-inch display that can unfurl to become a 7-inch tablet. The display folds over the outside of the phone, like it’s the cover of a book. This means that, when it’s in folded mode, the phone will have screens both on the front and back. At MWC 2018, Samsung Mobile CEO DJ Koh said that the outwards-folding technology is still pretty hard to do and is not ready for market yet. Instead, Samsung might launch a smartphone that folds inwards first.
Of course, we’ve also seen a few patents and heard a few whispers about the in-folding prototype. Allegedly, Samsung showed the two variants — inwards- and outwards-folding — to investors and carrier reps behind closed doors at the CES 2018 event. The in-folding prototype looked like a clamshell smartphone and consisted of two 3.5-inch displays on the inside and an extra 3.5-inch screen on the outside to show notifications and basic information when the phone is closed. When unfurled, the phone was about the size of the Galaxy Note 8.
A more recent leak changed these numbers up a bit. Allegedly, the outside display would have a 4.6-inch diagonal. The inside screen would be much larger, at 7.3 inches.
A patent, granted to Samsung, which we saw in July of 2018 also showed us the same design. A phone with a horizontal fold straight through the middle, which can close up to become a square-ish device when not used. In other words, it’s not a smartphone that unfurls to become a tablet, but a smartphone that folds down in order to be more compact when you transport it. OK, that’s cool, too.
The hardware inside the device is still a well-kept secret. We would assume that it would have the latest-and-greatest Qualcomm Snapdragon processor and a hefty amount of RAM to go with it, but we have nothing solid to go on right now. However, at least we’ve heard a battery size tip — the Galaxy F might have a 3,000 mAh battery. Yeah, that’s a bit small by today’s standards… but it’s a foldable phone, so let’s give it a pass, shall we?
So, there will be no tablet-smartphone 2-in-1?
Actually, there just may be one! Another patent, which Samsung filed for in April of 2018, depicts a large, tablet-like device, which folds inwards and only uses half of its display if the user needs it to. We dare speculate that Samsung will definitely launch the smartphone first, see if the market likes it, and improve upon it before it starts building such a tablet en masse. However, it’s obvious that the company is considering the option.
More interesting tidbits
According to a patent that popped up early this year, Samsung might be working on a Force Touch-like technology for the foldable phone. The document describes pressure sensors mounted underneath the flexible screen of an electronic device, so yes — that’s why we are thinking that. Let’s hope it doesn’t turn out to just be a pressure-sensitive home button like in the Galaxy S8.
The upcoming foldable phone will reportedly be a “super premium” product with limited availability and probably a premium price. While it does sound that not everyone will be able to get their hands on it at launch, it may slowly hit more and more international markets. That’s what happened back in the day with the Note Edge — it was sold only in South Korea and US in the beginning, with Samsung constantly stating that it’s a limited edition phone. A few months down the line, it was available in most parts of the world.
It’s worth noting that Samsung has been toying with the idea a lot. A patent for a foldable phone that’s a dedicated gamer machine also popped up — one half of the display works as a regular screen, while the other one is a dedicated controller area. There was also the one that let the phone fold up into a bracelet, so the user can carry it around like a smartwatch. Of course, patents often get filed left and right and don’t necessarily end up being actual products, but it’s worth noting that Sammy is exploring lots of various possibilities.
Release date? Dare we ask — price?