A big shift is coming with the upcoming arrival of foldable phones. Over the last couple years, Samsung has been pushing to be the first to market with claims of delivering one as early as 2018 — and now, its top executive is back at it.
While the company was relatively quiet about new phones at IFA last week, the CEO of Samsung’s mobile division, DJ Koh, delivered a big message for the rest of the smartphone world: “It’s time to deliver.”
According to CNBC, Koh went on to hint at what Samsung is trying to accomplish with its foldable phone, saying, “If the unfolded experience is the same as the tablet, why would [consumers] buy it?”
Koh added: “So every device, every feature, every innovation should have a meaningful message to our end customer. So when the end customer uses it, [they will think] ‘Wow, this is the reason Samsung made it.’”
That’s a pretty lofty goal, especially for a piece of tech that so far has evoked quite a bit of scepticism. While the idea of a foldable phone might seem promising on paper, the simple act of increasing a phone’s screen size might not actually be as handy as one might imagine, and if Samsung’s purported phone is anything like ZTE’s clunky Axon M, a massive flop isn’t out of the question.
On the other hand, the arrival of a folding phone with a flexible display could usher in a whole new era in mobile technology.
Recently, smartphones have gotten kind of boring, as manufacturers have mostly focused over the past few years on slimming down bezels and adding more cameras to the front and back of a device, with many flagship devices converging on the same formula — glass sandwich designs and maybe a notch at the top of the screen.
But a flexible screen could allow for entirely new smartphone form factors, similar to what new hinge tech and convertible design did for early two-in-ones back in 2012.
So when is this thing supposed to arrive? While Koh told CNBC that Samsung’s flexible phone was quite complicated, he also mentioned that its development is “nearly concluded”, and with Samsung already having shown off a so-called "unbreakable" flexible display back in late July, it seems Samsung may have already figured out the most important component.
Right now, the most likely timing for a debut would be at Samsung’s Developer Conference in early November, which is already slated to be where Samsung shares more details about upcoming smart speaker, the Bixby-powered Galaxy Home. Although, it’s possible a product this important could get its own standalone event in late November or December instead.
But let’s not forget, even if Samsung does live up to its promise to launch a flexible phone by the end of 2018, it’s highly unlikely you’ll actually be able to buy one until Q1 2019 at the earliest. However, that’s pretty far off.