Samsung has been dropping subtle hints at a foldable Android phone announcement for a while now, with the latest one of those coming in the form of a tweet that seems to confirm the major tech milestone will be hit early next month. The company crafted a short animation meant to promote this year’s Samsung Developer Conference taking place in San Francisco which shows a “where now meets next” tagline followed by a minimalist arrow that ends up folding out into a straight line, alluding at a bendable handset.
The latest addition of the happening is taking place on November 7 and 8 at San Francisco’s Moscone West center. Samsung has been rather blunt about its ambitions to launch a foldable handset in the near future but hasn’t shared many details on the device itself so far. The company’s suggestion that the handset will be launching at its next global developer gathering is in line with recent rumors about the product, though industry insiders remain adamant the Galaxy F or however the foldable phone ends up being called won’t be available for purchase prior to early 2019.
Background: The South Korean technology juggernaut has been working on its foldable smartphone project for over half a decade now, often starting from scratch due to technical limitations and issues associated with yield rates and durability, according to numerous media reports. It’s still unclear whether the company managed to fully address those concerns as new rumors suggest the Galaxy F will have a modest initial production run only amounting to around 150,000 units. Besides concerning yield rates, the size of the batch may also be indicative of Samsung’s commercial ambitions for the device that’s unlikely to be a massive hit due to its unconventional nature that the market has yet to get used to. Another major drawback of the handset is said to be its price tag which will reportedly surpass $1,500.
Due to that state of affairs, Samsung is expected to primarily market the Galaxy F to the most passionate tech enthusiasts, as well as mobile gamers. Besides its foldable screen, the device is believed to be a relatively traditional flagship, featuring high-end specs and offering a premium Android experience. Its display panel is rumored to be a 7.2-inch affair when folded out, whereas the phone’s folded state will resemble that of a traditional wallet, meaning the two sides won’t be sitting perfectly aligned with each other. The single OLED panel will bend alongside a mechanical hinge that Samsung is expected to mask to a degree.
The Seoul-based technology giant is expected to announce the handset alongside “the future unfolds” slogan, according to its recent trademark filing. Samsung has so far offered somewhat contradictory statements regarding its actual vision for the device, appearing unsure about how exactly it wants the gadget to be perceived. While DJ Koh, the CEO of the company’s mobile unit, first said a lot of thought went into the effort to make the foldable handset different to just a more compact tablet, he later said that’s exactly what the device will end up being. It’s hence still unclear how Samsung intends to improve the contemporary smartphone formula through the addition of a bendable display as the extra screen real estate one can stuff into a pocket with such a device may not be enough to justify the massive price tag on its own.
Besides Samsung, only Huawei is believed to be launching a foldable phone in the near future, with the Chinese firm’s device being rumored to debut in mid-2019 with both a bendable screen and 5G capabilities. Samsung is also working on 5G smartphones and one Galaxy S10 model is said to support next-generation connectivity but the company gave no indication that it’s planning to join that technology with its first foldable Android handset.
Impact: While Samsung’s main developer conference stopped being just about the developer community for some time now, the fact that the company’s first foldable smartphone is being announced at the event is a clear signal that the gadget in question may be seminal in nature but will also be niche offering. Instead of marketing it as a viable choice for the average consumer, Samsung appears to be preparing to launch the bendable device alongside a call for interested developers to support it with apps taking advantage of its unique screen. Only with a vast selection of software will the foldable smartphone trend catch on, many industry watchers believe. Samsung will hence almost certainly be trying to mobilize the global developer community to support its unconventional product, which largely explains its decision to launch it at its developer conference instead of waiting for a consumer-oriented trade show like CES or MWC, both of which are taking place in early 2019.
The device itself is likely to be positioned as the start of a new smartphone design trend more than a commercially viable product, though that isn’t to say Samsung won’t be releasing and marketing it globally; that’s precisely what the tech giant is widely expected to do so as to use the industry-first gadget as an eye-catching advertisement for its innovation efforts. The release of the tentatively called Galaxy F should also mark the introduction of a third mainstream flagship lineup from Samsung which may be starting as a niche series but is eventually meant to evolve into a full-fledged alternative to the Galaxy Note and Galaxy S families.
The device should also see Samsung make a second attempt at mobilizing the global developer community in a span of only several months, with the company already resolving to do so in late summer following the debut of the Galaxy Note 9 whose Bluetooth-enabled S Pen is now available for tinkering via official APIs. Whether Samsung ends up finding immediate success with the foldable smartphone concept remains to be seen but regardless of how unlikely that scenario seems, the idea of bendable display panels is here to stay and many manufacturers such as LG, OPPO, Xiaomi, Vivo, and Sony are looking to commercialize such technologies in the near future, according to past official statements and IP documentation reviewed by AndroidHeadlines.