One of the longest-running rumours in the mobile industry is Samsung’s foldable smartphone.
Samsung is believed to have been developing a smartphone with a screen that can fold and bend for years — but so far, it has never seen the light of day.
However, according to a report from Korean news site ETNews, it might finally be unveiled later this year.
A prototype of the device will reportedly be launched and given to partners so they can test them and assess demand from consumers. But don’t expect a commercial release in 2017 — only “thousands” of the devices will be made at first, with mass production and a proper launch expected for 2018.
This backs up an earlier report from the Korea Herald, which suggested it would be unveiled in Q3, and hoped to “roll out more than 100,000 units.”
A foldable smartphone, in theory, makes a lot of sense. It lets you double the size of the screen, without taking up any more space in the user’s pocket — or lets you shrink the size of the device when it’s not being used. It would also provide Samsung with a major unique selling point to use in its ongoing war with Apple for control of the premium smartphone market.
ETNews reports that Samsung showed an early prototype of the device to some “major mobile network providers” at Mobile World Congress, a big industry conference in Barcelona, earlier this year.
The project is alternately known as “Project Valley” and “Galaxy X,” according to PC Advisor.
A Samsung spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But don’t expect the company to shed much light on the matter. Samsung, like most tech companies, tends not to comment on rumours and speculation about unannounced products.
However, a patent application from the electronics company that came to light in November 2016 sheds light on how the foldable smartphone might look. It has a fold in the middle of the screen, letting the user close it like a retro clamshell dumbphone.
Unfolded, it looks like a much more traditional smartphone — albeit longer than most phones on the market today.
A word of caution: Just because a tech company patents something doesn’t mean it will necessarily make its way into a finished product. If Samsung does launch a folding smartphone this year, it may end up looking very different.
But at the very least, the images give a fascinating insight into how Samsung is approaching the problem, and how its engineers envisage a folding smartphone might look.
Samsung has been talking publicly about the potential of foldable screens and displays since at least 2013. Now, they might finally be becoming a reality.
(Above: Part of a 2013 video from Samsung showing off a concept foldable smartphone.)
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