Strap yourselves in kids, we’re about to take a trip to the future. After years of teaser videos, leaked roadmaps, concept designs and flexible display panel demonstrations, Samsung is finally nearing a foldable product release. According to South Korea’s ET News, Samsung is working on two different types of foldable smartphone with a separate dual-screened version to be released in early 2017.
The dual-screened smartphone that may appear at CES or MWC is said to be hinged though, not actually bent. Featuring two flat panels side by side with a hinge in between, it is reportedly similar to a prototype demoed recently by Japan Display. The device will presumably have three orientations: folded out with screens on the front and back, folded in to protect the displays in transit, or laid out flat like a tablet.
According to ET News, this dual-screened smartphone is primarily intended to gauge user interest and introduce consumers to some of the features and benefits of foldable smartphones before truly foldable devices are officially launched. The example is given of the Galaxy Round and Galaxy Note Edge as precursors to the Galaxy S6 Edge.
Samsung will apparently produce a small amount of dual-screened smartphones in early 2017 and assess the market’s response. This feedback will then be applied to two foldable designs the company is said to be working on and will go a long way towards determining when they are released.
Samsung is said to be “thinking deeply” about the release date for its foldable designs, as “its goal is to introduce [an] innovative product with [a] high level of perfection to markets faster than its competitors.” Industry insiders have claimed Lenovo’s foldable designs are still a while away from being produced at scale.
The two styles of foldable smartphones Samsung is working on are described as an “out-foldable” design and an “in-foldable” design. We’ve already seen an example of an in-foldable design in the concept device we saw as far back as 2014 in Samsung’s infamous advertisement and that we’ve seen in patent applications as recently as a month ago.
The out-foldable design is seen as the “next step” in foldable smartphones. “When an out-foldable smartphone is folded, OLED panels are placed on the front and the back. Panels also work at the part where it is bent, and this smartphone can be used as a tablet when it is not folded.” To get an idea of how this works, just take a look at Lenovo’s foldable concepts demoed earlier this year.
So there you have it, foldable smartphones are coming. Again. Still. This may seem like a story we’ve all heard many times in the past, but this is the first time we’ve heard about a precursor product being prepped for release with actual foldable designs coming in its wake.
Whether we’ll see them by the end of 2017 will largely depend on how well the dual-screened version goes down in the first half of the year. As much as Samsung will want to ensure it has an impeccable product on its hands before releasing its first truly foldable devices, it must also be noted that it will absolutely want to beat competitors like Lenovo, OPPO and even Xiaomi to market.
Would you buy a foldable smartphone? Or would you rather hold out for second-gen tech?