Samsung’s long anticipated foldable smartphone is finally getting close to production. The Korean company plans to position this new form factor at the top of its product line, above current flagships, according to an ETNews report.
Thousands of prototypes
Unnamed industry sources told ETNews that Samsung Electronics and Samsung Display aim to start prototype production in the third quarter of this year. Several thousand units will be made and seeded to major partners including carriers. The goal is to gather feedback and further test the foldable smartphone design ahead of mass production.
Behind closed doors, Samsung reportedly demonstrated its foldable smartphones design to a select number of partners at MWC 2017.
Keeping an eye on competition
Mass production of foldable smartphones could follow in 2018, barring any external interferences. Namely, Samsung is keen to be the first manufacturer to release a foldable smartphone, so the Korean company is keeping a close eye on competitors out of China that are also developing foldable displays.
Chinese display makers BOE, Visionox, and AUO have invested heavily into R&D in order to catch up with Samsung, the undisputed leader in OLED and flexible OLED technology. These companies are said to be working towards mass-production capabilities for folding displays.
BOE, Visionox, and AUO have close ties to large and ambitious Chinese smartphone makers including Lenovo, Oppo, and Vivo. Lenovo even showed early prototypes of a foldable tablet and a smartphone that can be bent and worn around the wrist.
While Samsung maintains a lead in the race to market, competition out of China means the Korean giant might decide to make an announcement sooner than anticipated.
One step higher than current phones
Samsung wants to position its foldable devices “one-step higher than regular flagship smartphones,” ETNews reports. This new smartphone will offer “luxurious design and high-quality,” which will have a halo effect on Samsung’s entire line-up.
Samsung plans to expand the concept of folding devices to other product categories, provided that consumers embrace the idea on smartphones.
It sounds like Samsung is following the same strategy it employed with Edge displays. Following a test run on the Note Edge, Samsung expanded the concept on the Galaxy S6 Edge and S7 Edge, and now Edge design is set to replace flat screens completely on the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus.
Edge displays have always commanded a premium, and that will likely be the case with foldable designs as well.
Long in the making
Samsung has been teasing its foldable display technology for years. It gave us a peek of what to expect with the Youm concept from 2013. Ever since then, we’ve been hearing rumors claiming foldable smartphones are just around the corner.
Leaks from the past months suggest Samsung might market its first foldable smartphone as Galaxy X. Patent applications and leaks reveal this tentatively named Galaxy X device could transform from a regular smartphone into a 7-inch tablet by opening up, much like a book.
While it’s relatively easy to create a display that bends and folds, the challenge is to make it resilient enough to withstand thousands of bends over the device’s lifetime. Production cost is another major consideration. Let’s hope Samsung – or one of its rivals from China – was able to finally crack the problem.