It’s sounding more and more like Samsung is building a foldable smartphone.
According to two new reports — from The Korea Herald and ETnews — the South Korean electronics company is working on a prototype smartphone with a fold in the middle.
The reports suggest it will be ready around midyear, but don’t expect it to go on sale publicly.
Instead, the plan is reportedly to show it to partners and big customers to research attitudes towards alternative phone designs, and assess demand from consumers. (Around 2,000-3,000 devices are reportedly being made.)
A smartphone with a foldable screen, made by Samsung, is one of the longest-running rumours in the smartphone industry. It has believed to have been working on one for years, but so far it has never seen the light of day.
However, it sounds like the current rumoured prototype doesn’t have a foldable screen — instead, it’s two five-inch screens, connected by a 180-degree hinge.
Don’t expect Samsung to confirm any of this. Like most tech companies it generally doesn’t comment on unannounced products and rumours, and has declined to comment on the subject in the past.
However, 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 previously reported 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 declined to comment on that report, saying in a boilerplate statement that “Samsung does not comment on rumour and speculation.”
A patent application from the electronics company that came to light in November 2016 sheds light on the kind of form factors Samsung is experimenting with. 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. But the images give a fascinating insight into how Samsung is approaching the problem, and how its engineers envisage a folding smartphone might look.
Now, even if the screen itself doesn’t fold, a foldable smartphone might finally becoming a reality.
(Above: Part of a 2013 video from Samsung showing off a concept foldable smartphone.)
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