Samsung's first foldable Android smartphone is likely coming to all U.S. carriers as the South Korean tech giant now started testing its firmware with all four major networks in the country, SamMobile reports. The device will be identified by the model number SM-F900U, with the SM-F900F and SM-F900N also being in the works for Europe and Asia, respectively. While there are still no guarantees the Galaxy F moniker will be attached to the bendable handset, an abundance of recent rumors pointed toward that being the case.
The U.S. variant of the device will run a firmware version F900USQU0ARJ5 that's been mostly developed stateside, which is uncharacteristic for Samsung's Android implementations. The development of the company's mobile software is usually helmed by its Seoul offices, with its units in other parts of the world being mostly in charge of localization and additional optimization. At least one variant of the handset will feature 512GB of flash storage, as per the same source. Dual-SIM capabilities will also be part of the package, though it's still unclear whether the carrier-locked versions of the device will have them enabled.
Background: Samsung executives, including its mobile chief DJ Koh, previously confirmed the company's first foldable device won't be a one-off experiment and will instead mark the start of an entirely new product lineup. The upcoming family should be positioned as the third flagship alternative from the firm, sitting next to the Galaxy S and Galaxy Note lines. While some rumors from earlier this year suggested Samsung may be combining the Galaxy S and Galaxy Note ranges, the technology juggernaut said it has no plans to do so in the immediate future.
The new claim about the handset having 512GB of flash memory gives more credence to the possibility that it ends up being a full-fledged flagship, though it's still unclear whether it ends up being powered by a successor to Qualcomm's Snapdragon 845 or Samsung's Exynos 9810. The company's conventional flagships traditionally used Snapdragon chips in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and China, while all other markets received their Exynos-equipped counterparts, but with the Galaxy F being anything but ordinary, it remains to be seen how Samsung approaches the project in terms of hardware availability. The sole fact that its firmware is now being tested across all major markets suggests the Galaxy F will be launching globally, though its availability may still be limited given how recent industry rumors indicated Samsung's initial production batch won't surpass 150,000 units, a far cry from millions of Galaxy Note and Galaxy S-series devices it produces on an annual basis.
The Galaxy F is also expected to debut as one of Samsung's most expensive smartphones ever, featuring a price tag of approximately $1,500. High production costs are believed to be the main reason for that premium price and it's still unclear when foldable handsets may drop below the $1,000 mark. Samsung's gadget is believed to have a 7.3-inch screen which can be folded in half like a wallet. The company has so far been sending mixed signals about the applications of such an unconventional design it's aiming for, suggesting it's both looking to deliver a more compact tablet and a device that surpasses traditional tablet capabilities.
Despite confirming its existence, Samsung has been extremely secretive about its foldable smartphone project and managed to avoid having it leak so far. Due to that state of affairs, concept renders of dubious credibility remain the only known depictions of the Galaxy F or however the handset ends up being called. The smartphone will likely run a custom implementation of Android 9 Pie and won't use Corning's Gorilla Glass, a staple of contemporary handsets. While the range of protective glass Samsung puts on the Galaxy F is still unknown, Corning's solutions were passed up by the company due to their overall lack of physical flexibility, industry sources claimed this summer.
While Samsung isn't expecting the Galaxy F to be a massive commercial hit, the firm intends to use it to advertise its R&D efforts and cement its status of a mobile technology pioneer. One of the slogans set to be attached to the finished product will read "the future unfolds," according to recently filed intellectual property documentation reviewed by AndroidHeadlines. The handset isn't expected to become available for purchase prior to the first quarter of 2019 but should still be announced or at the very least teased at the next iteration of Samsung's annual Developer Conference which is starting in San Francisco on Wednesday, November 7. Samsung isn't the only smartphone company that's presently pursuing bendable handsets, though it's likely to be the first to commercialize such devices. Huawei, OPPO, Xiaomi, LG, ZTE, and a number of other companies are also presently developing similar solutions, with some of them seeking to launch them as early as next year. Many industry analysts remain skeptical about the commercial prospects of first-generation foldable handsets, citing yield-rate and durability concerns, though the bendable form factor itself is expected to endure the test of time and eventually attract mainstream popularity.
Impact: Despite the niche nature of Samsung's first bendable handset, the company appears to be adamant to release it globally, hailing its technological breakthrough for all the world to see. That isn't to say the Galaxy F won't be a commercially viable product but consumers still shouldn't expect to get the maximum bang for their buck as they'll likely be paying a premium to buy into the bleeding edge of smartphone technologies. The fact that Samsung intends to present the device at its developer conference also indicates the handset may be light on apps taking advantage of its unique screen once it hits the market as the South Korean firm will likely ask the independent developer community to support the product and help it grow into an ecosystem of its own. The Galaxy F hence may not be fully unveiled until CES 2019 in January and its actual release window may be even closer to spring, depending on how successful Samsung ends up being at manufacturing it en masse.