Samsung's first foldable Android smartphone might have much more limited carrier availability than the company's mainstream flagships and will almost certainly be significantly more expensive. A report from earlier this week suggests Samsung already decided on its launch plans for the United Kingdom where the Galaxy Flex or however the device ends up being called will only be sold unlocked and through EE. That approach stands in stark contrast with the firm's product strategy for the Galaxy S and Galaxy Note lines, both of which are offered by virtually every major network operator in the country and abroad.
Regarding its price, the Galaxy Flex is said to cost between £1,500 and £2,000 in the UK, a company insider claims. Those figures amount to a $1,900-$2,500 range, suggesting the unconventional handset will be about twice as expensive as Samsung's priciest mainstream smartphone to date – the 512GB variant of the Galaxy Note 9. While Samsung occasionally partners with wireless carriers and helps them sell devices on a contract through its online store and brick-and-mortar outlets, that won't be the case with the Galaxy Flex, at least in the UK; the new report suggests the firm will only be selling a SIM-free variant of the Android flagship, whereas EE will be offering it both unlocked and on a contract. It's currently unclear whether Samsung intends to provide consumers with the ability to pay for the device in installments, though that seems like a probable scenario in light of its expected price tag.
The upper bracket of the Galaxy Flex's expected price range only pertains to the most premium variant of the foldable phablet, with the same source claiming Samsung plans to offer multiple models, presumably with different memory configurations, much like it has been doing with its other handsets for years now. It's still unclear whether the firm will be employing a similar launch strategy in other markets like the United States, though the niche nature of the Galaxy Flex makes further experimentation a likely scenario – Samsung just figured out how to mass-produce foldable handsets and it's only at the very beginning of its journey to actually sell them en masse.
Background: The upcoming device is widely expected to be the world's first mainstream bendable phone and is scheduled to be released in the first half of 2019. The South Korean technology juggernaut already confirmed that launch timeframe but didn't provide many other details on the matter. Previous reports indicated the company intends to officially introduce the gadget at the next edition of Mobile World Congres, the largest mobile trade show on the planet which traditionally runs from late February until early March. That estimated launch window is indicative of an April release, at least based on Samsung's previous flagship projects.
Besides its unconventional form factor, the Galaxy Flex will differ from Samsung's other recent ultra-premium smartphones by the size of its initial batch. While the Seoul-based conglomerate usually sells tens of millions of its Android flagships every year, it isn't planning to go all out with its seminal bendable device as it believes the unprecedented price tag will severely limit its commercial potential. Due to that state of affairs, the firm is first aiming for a production batch that's some million units strong and will only reassess future production plans after seeing how the initial wave of the devices sells. That careful approach may explain why Samsung is content with a single carrier partnership in the UK; no company in the history of the industry ever tried offering a $2,000+ smartphone as a mainstream product, so just selling that initial batch in a reasonable timespan would already be considered a success and a basis from which Samsung can build for the future wherein the foldable form factor will be an expectation, not an exception.
Samsung has been actively working on its foldable smartphone project for over half a decade now, having restarted the endeavor from scratch on several occasions due to technological barriers, according to a number of reports that emerged from all parts of the world in recent years. While it's finally close to reaching the milestone of actually releasing a consumer-grade bendable handset, it's already planning for the long-term and has some concrete ideas about how it could improve the foldable form factor in the future, as suggested by some recently sighted patents, including one that describes foldable handsets with hologram projectors.
While the Galaxy Flex won't take advantage of the full might of Samsung's distribution network, the company still intends to push it on a global level. A number of its executives already said as much and some unofficial findings such as test firmware leaks are suggesting the device will at the very least almost certainly be launching in the U.S. Earlier this month, the tech giant unveiled the Infinity Flex, a bendable Super AMOLED panel expected to be used by the Galaxy Flex. The screen module is believed to be 7.3 inches in size when fully extended and have a 4.6-inch diagonal when folded. The only company expected to challenge the handset in the immediate term is Huawei whose bendable smartphone project is also nearing completion, according to recent reports and the company's own statements on the matter.
Impact: The high price tag and questions concerning durability are likely to keep the average consumer away from the Galaxy Flex once Samsung's first foldable smartphone finally hits the market. That expectation is what prompted the company to set a relatively low production target for the initial batch of its seminal device and consequently ruled out the possibility of the handset being picked up by all of its traditional partners in the wireless industry. While Samsung has been rather outspoken about how it sees its first bendable handset as the start of an entirely new product lineup, the product itself will still be highly experimental in nature and is unlikely to set any kind of sales records. More details about the device — including its official name and actual design — should be revealed at MWC 2019, which is also when a rivaling handset from Huawei is expected to launch.