Why it matters to you
Foldable devices are the next step in smartphone evolution, and it’s still unclear who’s going to dominate the market, but LG, Lenovo, and Samsung are at the forefront.
You might think the Samsung Edge display is cool, but something cooler is coming very soon. Samsung has been working on foldable displays for many years now, and the Korean giant might be ready to showcase its first foldable smartphone in 2017. Information about the phone, which has been dubbed the Galaxy X for now, has slowly been leaking out, and here’s everything we think we know about it so far.
An MWC preview?
Samsung may be bringing foldable smartphone prototypes to Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, an annual trade show takes place at the end of February. Unfortunately, ETNews reports the prototypes will only be shown behind closed doors for “invited” guests.
The report says Samsung will show off prototypes to get a better understanding of the market response. The company will have prototypes that bend inward and outward, though ETNews claims the latter is more likely to be commercialized. ETNews suggests Samsung is looking to license this foldable technology to other manufacturers at the show.
Previous rumors suggested a commercial device may release in the third quarter of the year — or sometime July through September. According to a source that spoke to the Korea Herald, Samsung may roll out more than “100,000 units of fold-out devices” later on this year. The device can reportedly be used as a 7-inch tablet when unfolded, so it’s unclear if it’s meant to be a phone or a tablet (or both).
The company is still deliberating about the decision to unveil a foldable device this year, and it will wait until its “executive-level reshuffle” — the shuffle has been delayed to February or March. The source also said LG is expected to roll out 100,000 foldable devices in the fourth quarter of the year, and that LG has more advanced technology than Samsung. The competitor may be using the foldable technology for other companies such as Apple or Huawei.
Previous leaks from Twitter user and Samsung leakster @mmddj_china said the device will be available to purchase at some point in the third or fourth quarter of 2017.
Sources also told Bloomberg that we could see Samsung’s first foldable phone at Mobile World Congress in late February 2018, and it may be referring to the prototypes mentioned in the latest rumor. The company is considering building two new smartphone models — with one that folds like a wallet. One of the two devices will have a 5-inch screen when used as a cell phone but can be rolled out to show off an 8-inch display.
Before being known as the Galaxy X, Samsung’s folding phone had the codename Project Valley, which was featured in various reports. The company introduced the concept of a foldable display at CES 2013 and supposedly showed its first foldable phone prototype in a private meeting at CES 2014.
We got our closest look to date of the highly anticipated foldable smartphone on November 9 from Sammobile. A patent application reveals a number of renders and illustrates the smartphone’s hinge from a number of angles. Check out the latest photos below.
Patents filed by Samsung have been the only real clues as to the Galaxy X’s eventual design we have so far. A previous patent from Samsung Display was registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office at the end of September 2016. The diagrams included are dated mid-June and show a clamshell-like device that resembles a makeup compact, folding out into a traditional rectangular smartphone shape.
A camera lens is shown on the top of the closed clamshell, an area that becomes the rear of the unfolded phone. A selfie camera and speaker are shown in the inside top of the phone.
More interestingly, the bottom of the screen appears to have a curved edge, and it’s visible when the phone is closed. This may serve as an information and notification ticker, rather than fitting a secondary display on the back of the device. Samsung already utilizes its Edge screen on the Galaxy S7 Edge in a similar way.
Before this, a different patent filed by Samsung showed how a folded and unfolded Galaxy X might operate. For example, as Patently Mobile reports, a user could touch an icon on the edge area of the phone so that the app will be open once the device is unfolded. According to the patent, multiple user profiles will also be displayed on the edge area, allowing for multiple users to enter their password to access their information — all from the device’s edge. It’s important to note that this patent was filed in November, but was not made public until now.
Article originally published in October 2015. Andy Boxall, Kyle Wiggers, and Christian de Looper have also contributed. Updated on 02-08-2017 by Julian Chokkattu: Added rumors of the device to be present behind closed doors at MWC.