Tech Talk: Hype About Folding Phones May Be Bad For Samsung

Following a year of relatively disappointing forays into folding smartphones, there may be a cautionary argument to be made regarding the dangers of creating too much hype. Of the devices seen so far, most have failed to meet the expectations of consumers, let alone igniting a new revolution in smartphone design. There has, in fact, already been plenty of discussion on the failures of those devices, such as the ZTE Axon M. The designs are, to put it simply, not what the average consumer expects from a true folding smartphone. Given years of advertisements meant to excite, with products ranging from smoothly folding displays to rolled up panels that slide effortlessly out for use, on command, that's hardly surprising. It also isn't surprising that the company predominately responsible for building up hype around those devices has not yet released or revealed its own folding device - the long-rumored Samsung Galaxy X.

With that said, while ZTE's efforts and those of other manufacturers can feasibly be negated by the size and scale of the companies involved, Samsung has quite a lot to lose. It has spent years - months in the case of the Galaxy X - portraying folding devices via advertisements and promotional videos that operate in ways that many see as bumping shoulders with science fiction. Unlike those other companies, it has touted itself globally as a flexible and folding displays manufacturer, with the know-how to make those kinds of devices a reality - a future building company. Samsung has predominately watched idly as various sources tied its many patents in with its Galaxy X handset, riding a wave of anticipation and speculation. As a result, the hype can't grow much more than it already has, with the device expected to be revealed near the early in 2018. The most recent rumors about the device say that it will be inward-folding, similar to ZTE's smartphone, but that it will take a more advanced approach and use a plastics-based screen to support a more futuristic folded versus unfolded configuration.

However, those are, as mentioned above, only rumors at this point and whether or not and how badly a failed execution of the Galaxy X will affect Samsung comes down to its position in other technology sectors as well as the common perception of the Galaxy X after it launches. The company is currently riding high on its chips and displays sales. Its smartphone business makes up a relatively small portion of its income, as of this writing, but several of its other divisions are expected to lose market share fairly steadily over the next decade. That will undoubtedly make its smartphone division more important to its overall sales but also to its public relations. It could be argued that a lackluster reception of the Galaxy X, coupled with declining market share in other areas, could result in dismay among consumers that is ultimately comparable to the fiasco that was caused by Samsung's exploding Galaxy Note 7 problems. That is to say that it could cause a serious dent in public trust in the company's smartphone endeavors. Worse, if another company manages to beat Samsung to the punch due to Samsung essentially dropping the ball with the Galaxy X, many consumers could begin looking elsewhere for the next big thing. Ultimately, the damage could extend further to encompass Samsung as a brand, further exasperating losses in other industries. Once prominent smartphone maker HTC's sudden descent from the Android manufacturer throne provides a potent example of how rapidly a manufacturer can fall out of the limelight and how difficult it can be to regain the previously held position.

In fairness, it may be possible for Samsung to avoid the negative public perception and response those other devices garnered. Despite numerous leaks and rumors, there hasn't been any verifiably substantiated or official information released about the handset. There have been a number of patents but those have varied widely in exactly what kind of device they would have applied to. Included in those have been some that, disappointingly, bear striking resemblance to ZTE's above-mentioned device. Still, others have looked much closer to what consumers appear to want and would be revolutionary to the entire industry if the sales were even moderately successful. More importantly, Samsung would not necessarily lose any of its credibility as a smartphone manufacturer, if the Galaxy X can somehow capture consumer imagination when it is finally unveiled or even if it only manages to land in an effectively neutral position in terms of consumer feedback.

Furthermore, even if Samsung's Galaxy X does fail completely, the company is hardly placing all of its hopes in that one device. The truth remains that it has invested far more effort in its Galaxy S and Galaxy Note lines. It has also poured an enormous amount of resources into its mid-range and budget devices, with a special focus on the more rapidly growing technology markets, such as India. Those efforts may, in fact, be deliberate. Changing an industry is not an easy task, regardless of the industry and irrespective of how revolutionary or brilliant a given new design is. So Samsung may be directing more attention to its primary sales generators in order to circumvent any future fallout that may occur from its Galaxy X and may change tacts further once it has access to feedback from the device's reveal - spending more on advertising if it takes off well enough or diverting resources to its income generators if the opposite happens. Bearing that in mind, the hype built up so far isn't likely to dissipate or diminish before the launch of Samsung's Galaxy X is expected and that will play a big role in public perception of the handset. With consideration for the volatile nature of the market and consumers, the company is still very much engaged in a reasonably big gamble regardless of its underlying strategy.

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About the Author
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Daniel Golightly

Senior Staff Writer
Daniel has been writing for AndroidHeadlines since 2016. As a Senior Staff Writer for the site, Daniel specializes in reviewing a diverse range of technology products and covering topics related to Chrome OS and Chromebooks. Daniel holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Software Engineering and has a background in Writing and Graphics Design that drives his passion for Android, Google products, the science behind the technology, and the direction it's heading. Contact him at [email protected]
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