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Rumor: Samsung to launch 7.3-inch folding smartphone this December (Updated)

Update: Samsung mobile chief DJ Koh weighs in, says “there are still durability issues" with flexible displays.

Published onJanuary 9, 2018

Update #2 (01/10): Samsung mobile chief DJ Koh has now confirmed that the folding phone will arrive in 2019, according to ZDNet. Koh said Samsung was working hard to overcome the usability issues holding the product back from commercialization.

Update #1 (01.09): Samsung mobile boss DJ Koh is currently at CES 2018 discussing recently announced products, but he also took the time to address something from Samsung's future lineup: a folding phone. Koh had previously suggested that Samsung's flexible phones would appear in 2018, though that may no longer be on the cards.

“It is difficult to talk about the date of the launch now. We want to unveil the products properly but now seems a bit early,” said Koh (as reported by The Korea Herald). “We want to have a good reaction from customers once the phone is out in the market. But there are still durability issues that we need to address.”

These durability concerns might relate those mentioned in our original report below. While a regular smartphone display can suffer scratches, chips, or even shatter, a flexible display may have to endure a continuous opening-and-closing motion, which may weaken it or leave a trace over time.

Though Samsung will no doubt be eager to be early to market with such an anticipated product, particularly with other OEMs in the running, the memory of the Galaxy Note 7 fiasco may keep them from hurrying out a device where they aren't certain of its durability/longevity.

Previous coverage (01/09): After years of flexible smartphone display rumors, we’ve now reached 2018, where we probably only have another year of rumors to go. Samsung is said to be working on a folding smartphone set to enter mass production this November, and released in December or early next year.

The news arrived earlier today via ET News [translated], which provided a few interesting details about the potential smartphone. Apparently, the handset would feature a 7.3-inch, flexible OLED display (built by Samsung Display) that would fold open like a book. Samsung has experimented with smartphone display technologies for a number of years — most recently popularizing the curved smartphone display — but this would be its first commercial smart device with a flexible screen.

Samsung may even be showing off display prototypes for industry partners behind closed doors at CES 2018, said ET News, though it may not be the first device of its kind to market. Other manufacturers, such as LG and Lenovo, have also been working on flexible displays; however, as the world’s number one manufacturer, Samsung’s product will no doubt be the most anticipated.

According to the report, Samsung’s engineers are currently tasked with ensuring that the displays leave no trace of having been folded once they are opened into a flat position. As for the price, the device is expected to be “ultra-premium” in every way, so expect it to be at the top end or higher than what is being paid for today’s flagships (i.e. $1000+).

Despite these claims, we heard similar tales last year regarding a late 2017 release for such a product — from exactly the same source. Back in April, ET News produced a report that hit many of the same beats regarding timelines, delays, and the device size (7 inches). It begs the question of whether we’ll see a rehash of this story appear early in 2019 too.

While I wouldn’t place any bets on the release based on current information, given that five years have now passed since Samsung’s CES 2013 keynote (where it first touched in flexible display tech), I imagine that this type of product can’t be much further away.

Check out this Android Authority footage to see what a folding tablet would look like in practice and give us your thoughts on the Samsung speculation in the comments.

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