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Home / Technology / Our first look at Samsung's foldable raises more questions than answers

Our first look at Samsung's foldable raises more questions than answers


This was our first glimpse of Samsung's foldable future.

Angela Lang / CNET

At the moment all at Samsung's Annual Developer Conference was waiting for, Mobile Phone Marketing Justin Dennison came into his inner jacket pocket and pulled out Samsung's first folding phone . The rumor of being called "Galaxy F" – Samsung did not reveal the device name – this folding phone for 2019 represents Samsung's best opportunity to maintain its position as the world's largest voice mail.

The revelation Wednesday of the folding phone comes at a time when flagged smartphone sales and farm innovations have created a "19459015" recession "which threatens not only Samsung's dominance but also Apple's and allows room for players like Huawei to tighten already closing grip . Folding phones promise to restore this stall space, where even the year's top lines, from the Galaxy S9 to iPhone XS only vary gradually from 2017's best models. As much as radically new design would create the flag industry, it also raises questions about the usability of the design and how easily it could stumble into the gimmick territory.

Samsung is not alone in pursuing a folding phone. LG and Huawei develop own prototypes and a brand, Royole, has already come out with all-plastic FlexPai whose screen goes beyond, rather than inward as the phone Samsung Dennison showed on the stage.

Samsung refused to share more than the basics. We know that the display bends inward like a book and that there is also a screen on the outside so that you can use the phone while folded in two. The company also describes how it should create some new manufacturing processes and components. Finally, we know that it uses a new interface that will run on top of Android, called One UI which also comes to future Samsung phones, probably Galaxy S10.

What we do not know is whether the cover is made of glass or plastic, how much it will cost you and if you use it, it becomes practical or gimmicky. What will keep it from flaming like "foldable" ZTE Axon M ?

"Possibly when we start selling the folding phone, it may be a niche market, but it will definitely expand." Samsung's mobile boss DJ Koh told CNET in an October interview. "I'm positive that we need a folding phone."


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"Need" is a strong word for any new device category, but telephones and pundits agree on an important advantage: more screen space. A folding phone doubles essentially your available surface area.

The design provides new ways to use the phone. You can unfold it to play games and watch videos on a larger canvas. Or you can share the display hemisphere in separate windows for better multitasking.

For example, a screen may become a virtual keyboard, while the other may form a composite window. Or you can mirror the content on both screens and watch the same video over the table from a friend. And a folding phone can bump up while watching movies, no matter is needed. Like the earliest trials on dual-screen phones the holy grail with larger screen surfaces promises a rich opportunity.

Google agrees: The future of phones can be folded

Samsung, LG and Huawei can not create a foldable Android phone without Google support. Moments before Samsung unpacked the folding phone, Google announced its own folding phone support . The goal is for apps to work seamlessly as they switch from outside screen to larger screen, and from a route to multiple active parts of the screen at the same time.

As these powerful laptop computers continue to be the focal point of people's lives, telephones have worn out to increase screen size without making the device too big and heavy to carry in pocket or purse. The collapsible configuration aims to change everything.

But handwritten have their work cut out for them. Making two screens folding into each other is easier said than done. A screen that can bend and bend is one thing – Samsung and LG made the first time "curved" screens in 2013 and 2014 but the phones themselves did not bend.


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It is a challenge on a larger scale to make the device of the device fold: Batteries and components are rigid, and changing the battery to one side can make the phone feel unbalanced. Besides, flexible monitors have been in work for years, but thin glass can tend to break easier, especially when it's bent hundreds of thousands of times in a device's lifetime.

Royole's FlexPai solves the screen flexibility problem by using plastic instead of glass to cover the OLED screen. Plastic is not a popular material these days, especially when considering the price tag (FlexPai developer models start at $ 1,588). Royole put the battery on the right side and said it balanced to the left with the other components. A rubbery hinge controls flexion on the back.

Read : Samsung Mobile CEO: Our folding phone will be a tablet you can put in your pocket

Despite design challenges, it's creating a bendable phone Samsung must take . Samsung believes that being the first major player to show a folding phone can help get ahead of competitors trying to eat a bit of their break. A folding phone is also a halo device, an aspiring product such as Ford's GT supercar or Nokia's luxury Be phones giving the brand some prestige. Volume sales are not the name of the game here, but it takes attention.

  Samsung Flexible -amoled-displaysces.png

Samsung has had flexible screens down pat for many years. It's not enough to make the phone really foldable.

Josh Miller / CNET

"Does the industry need to move to collapsible? No, but it opens a new hybrid device category," said Lam, referring to a category that spans phones and tablets. (Note that the term "phablet" was created in response to Galaxy Note for the same reason.)

Samsung's challenge is to see that its brave new design does not come across and bombs. The company took a risk with the Galaxy Note series, and eventually paid it. In spite of a tough start, Note is now an established brand with a loyal follow-up, and the Jumbo screen design that is groundbreaking is now the industry standard. However, 2013's Korean only Galaxy Round was the world's first arc-screen phone, a sales flop, although leading to the curved edges of the Galaxy phones, we take for granted today.

We still do not have details about Galaxy F hardware specifications, but the foldable hybrid is rumored to have a 7.3-inch screen, a silver finish and Qualcomm's Snapdragon 8150 processor. It is said to have 512 GB of internal storage, with support for a microSD card.


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"The price point for this technology will be very high," said Lam. "There will be many years before a consumer version is available at the right price."

At this early stage, it's best to hit the Galaxy F, and any first-wave folding phone, as a stepping stone to a device. We may wish one day, rather than the one we need right now.

Originally published November 6th.
Update, November 7th : Added more details after Samsung's event.

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