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Samsung needs you to hold your breath a bit longer for a foldable smartphone

Why it matters to you

There's been plenty of buzz from several companies around the idea of a foldable smartphone, but it looks like that excitement may be a bit premature.

We’ve been all in a tizzy over the resurgence of the flip phone (or as they’re now called, foldable smartphones) that a number of major manufacturers have teased, and sadly, it looks like the tease isn’t over yet. Despite previous plans to debut the re-engineered Samsung clamshell as early as 2015, then 2016, and then 2017, the most recent estimate from the South Korean tech company now stands at 2019. So if you’re holding your breath … don’t.

At a recent Display TechSalon event, Samsung Display’s principal engineer, Kim Tae-woong, shattered dreams of a Christmas present involving a foldable smartphone by noting that the company is instead working hard on bezel-free displays. “Because the bezel-free display currently sells well, we still have enough time to develop [the] foldable display,” said Kim. And “enough time” apparently means around two years, as Samsung is now said to have plans to commercialize foldable flip phones at the end of the decade.

Though we’ve seen plenty of related patents from a number of companies, including Apple, LG, and Microsoft, it seems as though the time is not quite yet right to unveil this technology to the public. And for Samsung, at least, it appears to be a strategic decision. According to Chung Won-seok, an analyst at HI Investment and Securities who also spoke at the Display TechSalon event, “Samsung Display is expected to commercialize foldable phones in 2019 because the company does not need to sell the new hardware because it is already enjoying 20 percent operating profits with bezel-free display. When the demand for bezel-free handsets slows down, Samsung will unveil the foldable display as the next card.”

And of course, a delay also gives Samsung more time to perfect certain technical challenges, which Kim admitted Samsung was still facing with regard to the new design for the mobile device.

In any case, while a foldable smartphone seems to be in our future, that future does not look so near.