Samsung Galaxy X: Everything we know so far

Samsung CEO says its foldable phone will double as a tablet

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Samsung’s foldable phone Samsung's Project Valley foldable phone

Think the Samsung Edge display was cool? Something cooler could be coming very soon. Samsung has been working on foldable displays for a number of years, and the South Korean giant might finally be ready to showcase its first completely flexible smartphone in 2018.

Information about the phone, which has been dubbed the Galaxy X or “Treble Eight” (don’t confuse it for the Galaxy S10 that we also anticipate) has slowly trickled out. Here’s everything we think we know about it so far.

Design

What will the Samsung Galaxy X look like? Well, that seems to be up for debate. There have been dozens of rumors about the handset, mostly coming from patent filings and insider gossip, however, we’re still not entirely sure what the phone will look like. In a recent interview with CNET, however, Samsung mobile CEO D.J. Koh recently shed some light on the project, noting that it would essentially take the form of a tablet with multi-tasking features that would then fold up into a more portable phone. Koh also stressed that the phone would not be a gimmick and that it will be available globally when it does finally get launched, unlike some other Samsung phones that have only been available in South Korea.

Still, that doesn’t say too much about the specifics of the design. Here are a few possibilities of what the device could look like.

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Let's Go Digital

One of the most recent rumors comes courtesy of Let’s Go Digital. The tech site uncovered a recent patent Samsung submitted to WIPO.

The patent shows a smartphone with a display that folds over the back of the phone. The folded panel can be used as a viewfinder for the rear camera or can show unique information or graphics. When folded, it becomes part of the primary display.

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The Wall Street Journal recently published a report with more details on what the Galaxy X might look like. Sources close to the matter say the device features a screen that measures about 7 inches diagonally and can be folded in half — like a wallet. When the phone is folded, the outside shows a small display bar on one side and the other side holds the cameras.

Corroborating the report, a Samsung patent discovered by LetsGoDigital matches the same description. The patent, titled “Foldable Electronic Device Including Hidden Display and Information Display Method Thereof,” illustrates a foldable smartphone with a second display that is partly covered until the device is fully folded — which is when it will activate. From the images, it looks like the display is hidden under the top rear of the device when it’s unfolded and then comes out once it’s closed. While it hasn’t been confirmed, this could be how the hidden display will function.

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The hidden display is where you will see information like texts or notifications, whether you’re in portrait or landscape mode. That way, you’ll be able to see important alerts without having to unfold the phone each time. The patent also states the touchscreen will be compatible with an S pen.

Another report comes from the Korean Times, which spoke to Park Hyung-woo, an analyst at Shinhan Financial in South Korea. Park believes the Galaxy X will have two inside panels forming the 7.3-inch screen when the phone is unfolded, along with one outside panel to use when it’s folded.

According to South Korean news site The Bell, the final design for the Galaxy X foldable smartphone was tentatively confirmed in May. In a surprise to absolutely no one, the Galaxy X will apparently be using OLED panels in its construction — but what is notable is the number of them. According to The Bell’s report, the Galaxy X will feature three 3.5-inch OLED panels, two that form a massive 7-inch screen when unfolded, and a single one on the rear of the device that allows for the phone to be used when folded. If such a design is accurate, we could soon be adding a device with a 7-inch screen to our list of the smallest smartphones — not something we thought we would be doing.

Screens without bezels, like the ones used on the Galaxy S9, may be used to create a seamless, one-screen look. A recent patent confirmed that Samsung is experimenting with even more bezel-less phones — possibly even a completely bezel-less front with an under-display fingerprint sensor.

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Previous speculative Galaxy X designs

Previous Galaxy X designs showed a massive 7.3-inch OLED screen that folded down into a shape reminiscent of the popular “clamshell” phone designs of the past. The above image shows a Galaxy X that’s less sleek than current smartphone designs, with the back of the phone sporting a curved and wavy design. On November 9, 2017, Sammobile released a whole host of images that appeared to show the Galaxy X. 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.

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Before this, a different patent filed by Samsung showed how a folded and unfolded Galaxy X might operate. 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. Multiple user profiles would also be displayed on the edge, allowing multiple users to enter passwords to access information from the device’s edge.

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Release date and price

New reports claim that the Galaxy X will be revealed before the end of 2018. According to an interview between DJ Koh and CNBC, the Galaxy X may be shown off in November at the Samsung Developer Conference in San Francisco. While he admitted that the process in creating a truly foldable screen was tough, the project is on course and on time for a reveal this year. This means Samsung could be on track to be the first to release a truly foldable device.

This jibes with earlier reports that confirmed the launch of the foldable smartphone wasn’t far away. In those earlier reports DJ Koh also indicated the phone isn’t a one-time thing, and might actually exist as a series.

This new release date flies in the face of previous rumors and leaks, which indicated that Samsung intended to launch the device early in 2019. Those older reports claimed the initial rollout wouldn’t be on a large scale, but would instead target more specific markets with a “broader commercial debut in the second half of 2019.” This has clearly changed, and could indicate that Samsung has decided to push the schedule forward based on prototype success and a general warmth of the market towards a foldable smartphone.

Older rumors suggested that the Galaxy X would be shown off in February 2019, at Mobile World Congress, and while it may not now be the first place we’ll see the device, it could be that Samsung will hold off on releasing the phone until MWC 2019. More rumors claim Samsung has already shown off the Galaxy X in a private event at CES 2018.

While Samsung might be the first smartphone manufacturer to launch a phone with a foldable screen, it won’t come at a cheap price. Kim Jang-yeol, head of research at Golden Bridge Investment, says the phone could reportedly cost as much as two million won at release, Korea Times reports. In the U.S., that converts to about $1,850.

This has been in the cards for some time. Samsung it made reference to flexible and folding screens several times in its end-of-2017 financial report, discussing short to midterm advancements in mobile, and its intention to “differentiate its smartphones by adopting cutting-edge technologies, such as foldable OLED displays.” The company first 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.

Name

Now that the Project Valley prototype is no more, what will the production version of Samsung’s first official foldable phone be called? And when will it be released? The Galaxy X has been most commonly used to refer to the phone, but in May, The Bell reported that Samsung uses the code name “Winner” for the project. Another possibility for the name is the Galaxy F, which has been leaked and subsequently linked to the foldable phone. It’s a plausible choice because the letter F could easily stand for foldable, or flexible.

The smartphone’s model number — SM-G888N0 — was posted on a support page on Samsung’s site, and while the page is currently empty and lists no other information, it’s not the first time we’ve seen the number appear. The phone’s model number (with “N0” reportedly denoting that it’s for the South Korean market), was also listed on documents for Bluetooth testing. Then it was referenced in Wi-Fi certification from the Wi-Fi Alliance and in filings submitted to the National Radio Research Agency of the Korea Communications Commission.

Specifications

There have been no rumors regarding the Galaxy X’s specifications. However, the foldable phone has been linked with a tweet stating Samsung is developing a gaming phone. The rumor came shortly after the same account stated the Galaxy X would not be called the Galaxy X, leading to speculation the phone will be marketed to gamers. This has been mentioned in the past, after it was stated Samsung would target gamers with a limited initial release of the device. If gaming is the phone’s focus, then expect the specification to be high.

Updated on October 11, 2018: Samsung mobile chief D.J. Koh has shed some light on the device’s design in an interview with CNET.

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