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On eve of iPhone X launch, Samsung CEO teases foldable phone

The day before the tenth-anniversary iPhone, Samsung CEO DJ Koh talked about record Galaxy Note 8 pre-orders and folding smartphones.

Published onSeptember 12, 2017

The day before the tenth-anniversary iPhone, Apple’s biggest launch in years, Samsung CEO DJ Koh spent an hour talking to Korean media about record Galaxy Note 8 pre-orders and folding smartphones.

Was Koh trying to steal some of Apple’s thunder? Probably.

And understandably so. After all, the much-hyped iPhone X can be seen as a confirmation of Samsung’s own vision, with features including a large, edge-to-edge OLED screen (supplied by Samsung itself), wireless charging, and facial recognition.

Next step

While Apple seems to be catching up with Samsung in terms of industrial design and feature set, the Korean giant is plotting its next technological leap.

As reported by Korea Herald, Koh said that Samsung has “clear roadmaps for the innovation of its smartphone series.”

Furthermore, Samsung’s roster will soon include a foldable smartphone.

“We have a plan to adopt a foldable display in our roadmap. We are currently addressing some technological hurdles to commercialize such a device.
We will launch a foldable device when we are fully ready, and we are aiming to do so next year.”

The technological hurdles Koh mentioned could refer to the mass production of the flexible, resilient plastic film that acts as a substrate for flexible displays. Called polyimide film, this material is said to be manufactured by Korean supplier Kolon Industries.

According to a report from January, Kolon won’t be able to pump out the material until January 2018. Samsung would need another two to three months to manufacture the folding phone, putting the commercial launch at the end of Q1 2018 at the earliest.

Galaxy X

Samsung’s foldable smartphones have been rumored and leaked for years. But this is the first time a Samsung executive publicly confirms the project. Even if it’s rather vague, the fact that Koh offered a timeframe for the release suggests Samsung has finally solved the puzzle of manufacturing folding devices.

Samsung was rumored to launch its first foldable device under the tentative Galaxy X moniker, establishing a new series, akin to the Galaxy S and Galaxy Note franchises. But Koh stated that the folding phone will be part of one of the two flagship series, without specifying which one.

Update: According to the Associated Press, Koh specifically said the folding device will be a Note device.

Does this mean we’ll soon see a folding Galaxy S or Galaxy Note variant? There’s a precedent in the Note Edge – the now ubiquitous Edge design first made its debut on the Note Edge, alongside the Galaxy Note 4, and quickly branched out thanks to the success of the first implementation.

Illustration from one of Samsung’s many foldable device patents

A number of patents – as well as Samsung’s own concept video from CES 2013 – tell us what to expect from the Galaxy X, or whatever it will be called. Samsung will probably start small, with a phone that folds in half like a wallet, making it easier to carry and harder to break.

Another design could see the phone unfold into a small tablet. It wouldn’t be too much to say that such a device would spell the end for the already ailing tablet market.

In other news, the Note 8 is a smash hit

Every dark cloud has a silver lining. Thanks to the Note 7 disaster, pent-up demand for Samsung’s largest flagship generated record pre-orders for the Note 8.

DJ Koh said 650,000 Korean customers pre-ordered the Galaxy Note 8, with total orders expected to hit more than 800,000 by September 15, when the phone goes on sale. That’s twice as many pre-orders the Galaxy Note 5 got in the same period.

“The initial response from around 40 overseas markets including the US and Europe is very encouraging,” Koh said. “We have confirmed unchanged love and support for the Note series.”

Bottom line, as Apple is setting the stage for its biggest event in years, Samsung seems extremely confident about its current – and future – product lineup.

Check out our comprehensive Galaxy Note 8 review and let us know your thoughts on the Note 8, the Galaxy X, and the iPhone X!

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