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(Update: May launch 2018 as "Galaxy X") Samsung reportedly prepping folding smartphone/tablet hybrid

The smartphone would reportedly feature an outward-facing display allowing the device to be used as a 7-inch tablet.

Published onJanuary 12, 2017

Update, January 12, 10:20: Following yesterday’s report that Samsung may launch a folding smartphone in Q3 2017, Business Korea has weighed in on the speculation, stating that the device is tentatively being called the Samsung Galaxy X. However, Business Korea also says that it would launch in 2018, as one of the folding display’s vital components, polyimide film (or tape), won’t be commercially viable until then.

Polyimide film is lightweight, flexible and resistant to heat and chemicals, making ideal for foldable devices. Business Korea says that Kolon Industries, a parts supplier for Samsung and LG, is preparing for the mass production of polyimide film in south Korea — where the aforementioned companies are headquartered — but that its manufacturing facilities wouldn’t be ready until next January.

Business Korea states: “Given the fact that it generally takes two to three months to supply parts, mass produce products and release, foldable smartphones [are] most likely to be commercialized at the end of the first quarter or early second quarter.”

That said, an industry official did mention a chance of seeing the device this year as a prototype before its official launch in 2018. Samsung has yet to comment on the speculation.

Original story follows below…

Samsung will announce a folding smartphone in Q3 2017, according to a report from The Korea Herald. Sources familiar with the matter told the Korean news site that Samsung is preparing 100,000 units of the device, which would also fold out to be used as a 7-inch tablet.

Samsung has been working on foldable smartphone displays for a number of years, with another display patent coming to light as recently as last week. Unlike many previous Samsung foldable phone concepts, however, the speculated device’s display would appear on the outside (as seen in the Lenovo prototype above) rather than the inside of the body.

Samsung is still working on that foldable smartphone

This news is in keeping with a Bloomberg report from last June, in which unnamed sources suggested that Samsung was preparing two folding devices for 2017. One device would fold inwards while the other, Bloomberg said, “will have a 5-inch screen when used as a handset, that unfurls into a display that’s as large as eight inches, similar to a tablet.”

It seems likely at this point that Samsung is developing an outward folding device, though the question of when it will launch hangs in the air. Some analysts suggest that they won’t be market-ready until 2018, while others suggest we’ll see them before the year’s end.

The Korea Herald says multiple sources have indicated that: “Despite technical completion, Samsung Electronics has not made a final decision about whether they will unveil the device this year because of marketability and profitability issues.”

Samsung may be keen to be the first major manufacturer to release such a product and beat its Korean rival LG, who is also working on such technology, but doing so would be a significant financial risk for the manufacturer. Perhaps, like its Galaxy Note Edge, the device will appear alongside a more traditional variant in a limited quantity to measure desirability first.

Would you be interested in such a smartphone? Let us know in the comments.

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