So the foldable smartphone that Samsung has been talking about for a while now has finally made its appearance.
It is somewhat futuristic-looking and is a bendable tablet, which has now been captured to make our imaginations a reality. Whether it's the folding tablets found in Westworld or the many book-like slates with foldable pages in Microsoft's future vision videos, a phone that folds out into a much larger device is dreamlike. Samsung is now trying to make these wild concepts a reality.
The Galaxy maker showed off its new 'Infinity Flex Display' earlier this week; a display technology that will allow a tablet-sized screen to fold into a device that is approximately the same size and shape of a smartphone. While we've seen flexible and bendable wearable devices, this is one of the first times we've seen such a display in a phone that's rumoured to ship in 2019. Samsung's device was "disguised" by what appears to be a chunky case, and shown only under dim light, but it's far more than just concept art.
Samsung's foldable display in action! pic.twitter.com/9yXAZk8JxG— SamMobile (@SamMobiles) November 7, 2018
Samsung is actually using two separate displays to create its foldable phone – one on the inside, and a smaller display on the outside – unlike Royole's FlexPai, which uses a single folding display on the outside of the device. Samsung's internal display is 7.3 inches with a 1536 x 2152 resolution (4.2:3). It folds in half to reveal a second display on the front of the device. This second "cover display," as Samsung calls it, functions as a 4.58-inch phone interface with a resolution of 840 x 1960 (21:9). It's also flanked by much larger bezels at the top and bottom compared to the internal display. Although it looks very stocky, Samsung says the device hiding inside the disguise is actually "stunning."
How would I use it?
That's what majority of the 'fans' probably thought as Samsung's Justin Denison whipped out a prototype folding smartphone. A phone that can open up to become a 7.3-inch tablet would be pretty handy when out and about. Like writing on the go, or even watching Netflix on a train or in a hotel room, for a start. A pocket-sized device that could fold up into your pocket and double in size when required could actually be awfully handy.
But, this 'non-existent' Samsung device will have an Infinity Flex Display that could, who knows, easily crash and burn? Purely on a technical level, its initial form is bulky as hell. This is in order to accommodate the display and its flexing hinge. The prototype that Denison showed off at Samsung's Developer Conference looked as bulky as a Nokia Communicator, anathema to users who love their svelte Galaxy S8s and S9s.
Why did the executive have to pull the phone out in total darkness? Perhaps the backlight is weak, or there's an issue with a power draw that would make extended use problematic. Powering a smaller 5-inch LCD and a 7.3-inch flexible OLED will take quite a lot of juice. At a guess, 4,000mAh is the smallest battery the phone could use, giving it parity with Samsung's other 7-inch tablets. It's also worth adding that a hinge, like any moving part, introduces a point of failure that you won't find on other mobile devices.
Samsung's creation is far more advanced, and the fact that it's courting developers is a sign that it's well aware of the work it needs to do. Everything doesn’t have to be perfect; the first iPhone wasn’t, and it only sold a million or two units per quarter in its first year. It just needs to be good enough for the early users to catch on to the advantages.
The technology will finally arrive if Apple, which buys iPhone displays from Samsung and LG (another company that has been working on flexible screens), takes the leap, as it has done repeatedly after watching other manufacturers' experiments – bigger screen sizes, multiple camera lenses, rounded glass and other incremental innovations.
It's still far too early to praise or condemn Samsung's initial foray into the foldable hybrid market, but it is exciting. After all, this is one of the world's biggest device manufacturers showing off a bold new step in mobile computing.
If it will work, guess we will have to wait and see...