Think the Samsung Edge display is 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,” has slowly trickled out. Here’s everything we think we know about it so far.
If reports that only a small run of Galaxy X phones will be made available are true, then we shouldn’t expect them to be made available outside South Korea, or even to the public at all. The phone is often described as having two OLED display panels with a hinge in the middle. Screens without bezels, like the ones used on the Galaxy S8, may be used to create a seamless, one-screen look. This idea has been confirmed by a recent patent confirming that Samsung is experimenting with even more bezel-less phones — possibly even a completely bezel-less front with an under-display fingerprint sensor. If Samsung was able to pull off such a look with the Galaxy X, then it could usher in a new era of smartphone design.
A proposed Galaxy X design comes from The Investor, and shows a massive 7.3-inch OLED screen that folds down into a shape reminiscent of the popular “clamshell” phone designs of the past. This image shows the Galaxy X to be less sleek than current smartphone designs, with the back of the phone sporting a curved and wavy design unlike anything we’ve seen on a smartphone thus far. Quite what purpose such a design is meant to achieve is unknown, but it’s presumably to help the smartphone to fold and not damage any of the internal components.
On November 9, 2017, Sammobile released a whole host of images that appeared to show the Galaxy X. 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 that’s visible when the phone is closed. It might serve as an information and notification ticker, rather than a secondary display on the back of the device. Samsung already uses the Edge screen on the Galaxy S8 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.
If a foldable, flexible-screened phone sounds like science fiction, and therefore a long way away, don’t be discouraged. Samsung’s bendy phone may be much closer to release than you think. In its end-of-2017 financial report, it made reference to flexible and folding screens several times, teasing us with a near-future debut. While discussing short-to-mid term advancements in mobile, Samsung said it intends to, “differentiate its smartphones by adopting cutting edge technologies, such as foldable OLED displays.
The message continues later, this time under its display business forecasts, stating that during the first three months of 2018 it will, “improve the productivity of flexible OLED panels,” while focusing on products for its flagship smartphones. No actual product is discussed, but the building blocks are there, and the approximate time frame neatly fits in with other rumors.
Previously, The Investor reported Samsung is prepping the Galaxy X for production and eventual release in late 2018 or early 2019; something apparently confirmed by Samsung’s president of mobile business, DJ Koh, according to ZDNet. It’s reported that Samsung showed off the Galaxy X at a private event at CES 2018, and that the Galaxy X would likely be Samsung’s most expensive smartphone ever.
While it was secretive at CES, Samsung hasn’t been shy about the Galaxy X’s existence. 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 the “N0” reportedly denoting that it’s for the 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.
Components needed to produce between 2,000 and 3,000 foldable Galaxy X phones have apparently been ordered by Samsung, ready to make a series of the devices during the first half of this year. An anonymous industry source informed Korean site The Investor that Samsung will “test the waters” with the limited run prototype, which may launch in the last part of 2018.
A limited run of test phones does fit in with previous reports. According to a report from ETNews, Samsung intended to begin production of a prototype phone in the third quarter of 2017, in order to “verify quality of foldable smartphone by producing thousands of prototypes.” It’s possible they missed that target, but most sources are still adamant that Samsung is going ahead with the phone, and will be monitoring the quality of the prototypes internally — and will likely begin producing a consumer version of the phone if prototypes hit the mark.
Before being known as the Galaxy X, Samsung’s folding phone had the code name Project Valley, which was referenced 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. It’s possible the Galaxy X is just one device being considered in Project Valley.
Updated on February 15: Added news of Samsung’s recent patent of a totally bezel-less screen design.