Undeniably Samsung has captured the Android devices market – and the imagination of a large chunk of the populace – with the wildly successful Galaxy series of smartphone and tablet devices. However, when it comes to design innovation, Samsung has not offered much design differentiation across its products, which look like different-sized clones of one another. A possible exception to this monotony was the Samsung Galaxy Round – the Korean manufacturers’ tentative and underwhelming foray into the flexible or curved display niche.
However, if reports in the Korean media are to be believed, despite the Galaxy Round not bouncing off a desired by Samsung, the Korean manufacturer is betting big on curved and foldable smartphone displays. The Korean Herald reports that Samsung will be releasing a ‘bent’ display with their Galaxy Note 4 iteration sometime this year. The technology for bent or curved display does exist as evidenced by the Samsung Galaxy Round as well as the LG G Flex. However, it has not received much support from the general populace – especially if feedback and sales performance of the Samsung Galaxy Round is anything to go by. Bloomberg had reported that Samsung plans on providing a “three-sided display” for their Note 4 iteration.
The Korean Herald reports that “[t]he bent smartphones will be rolled out as a Galaxy variant with a few million units at the end of this year, initially taking aim at the niche market,” as claimed by Song Jong-ho, an analyst with the Korean KDB Daewoo Securities. Samsung is also reportedly ramping up the production capabilities at Samsung Display – the display arm of the Korean giant, which manufactures all those OLED screens on the Samsung devices. At Samsung Display, the A3 production line is designated for the manufacture of flexible display technologies, which is receiving an investment infusion of 2 trillion won (approximately $1.9 billion).
The huge investment amount in itself evidences Samsung’s commitment to curved and flexible displays; however a truly foldable smartphone is still at least a year away – especially since curved or foldable battery technology at Samsung hasn’t managed to keep up with their Display segment. “The bent device is the first step toward testing the market and gauging how it would react to its foldable smartphones that are to be unveiled in the second half of next year,” Song of KDB said, adding that the foldable phone would be the next Samsung flagship phone.
Samsung had unveiled their foldable display technology at the Consumer Electronics Show earlier last month, though it was limited to a private audience. Samsung Electronics Vice-Chairman and CEO Kwon Oh-hyun had stated at Analyst Day last year that Samsung would unveil the first foldable phone in 2015 -which could be the Galaxy Note 5. However, do take this with a pinch of salt as business plans tend to change between conceptualization and final product delivery.
In terms of usability, foldable displays – i.e. truly foldable ones – could bridge the gap between a mobile phone and a tablet. We would definitely like to see a device which could be compactly folded into a smartphone and could be expanded to become a larger screen tablet for watching videos, playing games or plain doodling. That is our wish list for foldable display devices, what’s yours? Do let us know in the comments below.