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Foldable smartphones are (almost) upon us
LG may have stolen the show at CES 2016 with its rollable AMOLED display, but Samsung is now in the headlines with analysts predicting a foldable smartphone from the Korean firm later this year. Project Valley, or Project V as it is also known, could come in one of several patented form factors.
Analysts at HSBC Bank are claiming Samsung could release its first commercial foldable smartphone in H2, 2016 as a means to capture both the smartphone and tablet markets, provide a larger screen size in a smaller form factor, and offer a truly unique product differentiator.
Now, you may remember way back in 2013 when that display technology roadmap leaked, outlining Samsung’s plans for curved, bendable and foldable displays. The Galaxy Round was a short-lived experiment and I suppose you could consider the Galaxy S6 Edge a bent screen rather than a curved screen, but the appearance of a truly foldable display would be revolutionary.
Several Samsung patents already exist for foldable display devices, with some looking like a wallet, others like a Nintendo DS, a couple like a book and even one that unrolls from a scroll. No matter which form factor the first device assumes, Samsung is working on a whole bunch of different possible designs, many of which have already been previewed.
It’s difficult to predict whether the company will release multiple devices onto the market at the same time – perhaps a scrollable and flexible tablet, tri-fold smartphone and folding book-format tablet simultaneously as a new product line – or focus its efforts on one revolutionary new device to see how it sells. The only certainty is that Samsung will want to beat LG to the punch.
All of this makes it entirely possible that we will see a foldable or otherwise flexible device from Samsung this year. Samsung has the display tech, R&D, motivation and track record to make it happen. But, like the Galaxy Note 5, it won’t be a global launch. According to Sam Mobile, the device will not see a US release, at least not at launch.
Specs surrounding the rumored Project Valley device follow the Galaxy S6 Edge+ quite similarly (the S6 Edge+ model number is SM-G928 and the leaked model number for Project V is SM-G929F). Two variants are reportedly being tested, one powered by the Snapdragon 820 and another by the Snapdragon 620. Considering the 620 was announced almost a year ago, the 820 sounds like a safer bet.
Other specs point to 3 GB of RAM and the presence of a microSD card slot. But all of these details could change dramatically by the time the device actually appears. With Samsung Unpacked scheduled for IFA 2016 and stand-alone events for major product launches becoming more common, there’s no easy way to pick a launch date.
The really interesting question is not so much exactly when it will happen – it’ll be soon enough – but rather what form factor the first device assumes. What would you prefer? A tri-fold smartphone? Foldable book? Rollable slate?