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Samsung foldable phone: Everything we know so far

Samsung teases it will reveal its foldable phone during the Galaxy S10 event

Think the Samsung Edge display was cool? Something cooler is on the way, as Samsung is ready to release its first folding smartphone. It’s a very big deal, with Samsung saying it will “lead the mobile industry into a new era,” and that producing it required a “total reconfiguration of the smartphone from inside out.”

There are rumors galore, right down to what the phone may be called, so we’ll be referring to it as Samsung’s foldable smartphone to keep things simple until an official name is revealed.

Here’s everything we think we know about it so far.

Release, price, and availability

While Samsung teased the phone during the Samsung Developer Conference, we still don’t have many details about it. Thankfully, however, it looks like we’ll learn a little more about it soon. Samsung is teasing that a reveal of the device will occur during the Samsung Galaxy S10 event on February 20. This could be where we finally see the actual design of the foldable phone.

Technically complex devices with unusual components are never cheap. How much will the Samsung folding phone cost? According to an anonymous Samsung source speaking to South Korean media in late January, it will be “twice the price of a premium phone,” which could place it anywhere from $1,800 to $2,500. This is similar to what we’ve heard before. In November 2018, Gizmodo U.K. claimed there would be several models of the foldable phone, priced between 1,500 and 2,000 British pounds, or approximately $1,900 to $2,550. The head of research at Golden Bridge Investment says the phone could cost as much as 2 million won or nearly $1,800 at release, while Korean analyst CCS-CIMB Research suggests that the phone will come in at $1,800 without carrier subsidies.

Previously, a Samsung representative was quoted as saying, “the foldable device will launch by the first half of 2019 in select markets. We are currently ready for its mass production and expecting at least 1 million units to be produced.”

Design

What will Samsung’s folding smartphone look like? There have been a lot of hints, concepts, prototypes, and rumors. The render you see below is based on the most recent hints from Samsung itself. Following the release of a video featuring the Samsung folding smartphone, LetsGoDigital has set its 3D engineers to work, and the result can be seen below.

It’s a step beyond the site’s previous renders, and it says the new image reflects changes Samsung has made to the design. Notice the slimmer bezels, and the slimmer body itself, too. Even though it’s based on Samsung images, this is still an artist’s impression of the device, and may not be final. For example, the lack of a front-facing camera is noticeable. However, if the final product comes close to this concept, it’s sure to turn some heads.

The render was designed based on what could be the folding smartphone as seen in a promotional video shown in Vietnam by Samsung. The folded smartphone-like device appears around 24 seconds in, and stays on screen for a few moments, during which it is unfolded to become a tablet-like device. It’s not folded the entire way back, and both front and back screens are illuminated.

Again, it’s relatively dark in the shot — just like Samsung’s developer conference tease — so the actual design is still obscured. It is compelling footage, though, and lets us properly imagine what life may be like with the device itself.

When speaking to Digital Trends during CES 2019, Samsung’s Suzanne de Silva, Samsung’s director of product strategy and marketing, said the folding smartphone will use the Infinity Flex display, one of the display concepts that Samsung revealed at its recent developers conference. The screen, within a folding smartphone prototype, is seen here.

“What you’re really seeing here is that people want a bigger display, right? That’s the reason we got rid of the bezels,” de Silva said. “That’s the reason we created the Infinity Flex so that we can give consumers the biggest display.”

Using Samsung patents, we’ve been given hints about how the phone will show information on a hidden display seen when the device is folded. It’s possible you will see information like texts or notifications, whether you’re in portrait or landscape mode, without having to unfold the phone each time. The patent also states the touchscreen will be compatible with an S Pen.

Patent image for the Samsung foldable display discovered by Patent Mobile.

Before this, a different patent filed by Samsung showed how a folded and unfolded foldable phone 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.

Gaming phone design

Samsung may also be exploring the possibility of using the new folding design for a gaming device. LetsGoDigital found a patent of a phone with gaming controls that seem to be able to fold over the top of the bottom of the already-folded screen — making a device with two folds. Of course, it’s unlikely this will be the first Samsung foldable phone, but it could still be a variant of one.

Specifications

Folding smartphone screens will be one of the big 2019 mobile trends, and 5G will be the other. Samsung may have the chance to hit both bases — it may launch a 5G version of its folding device in South Korea, but a wider international launch isn’t certain yet, and that means it may not arrive in the U.S. The phone may come in several colors — blue, black, green, or silver — which matches the standard 4G model.

Samsung has already been rumored to release a 7nm chipset with 5G capability for its upcoming folding smartphone, and for use in a 5G-enabled Samsung Galaxy S10. According to Lets Go Digital, the Samsung foldable phone will be powered by an Exynos 9820 processor in South Korea, and a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 elsewhere. While Samsung recently invested billions in a foundry to create 7nm chipsets, the newly announced Exynos 9820 SoC is actually based on 8nm architecture.

Such large screens as likely to be seen on the Samsung folding smartphone need large batteries to power them. It’s possible Samsung will use two batteries in the device, each with a capacity of 2,190mAh, for a total of 4,380mAh. This almost matches a previous report, which stated the two batteries inside would have a 2,200mAh capacity; but both of these are lower than another rumor, which placed the total capacity at around 6,000mAh.

The camera may be borrowed from the forthcoming Galaxy S10, according to an ETNews report, which says it will have a “similar” triple-lens camera to the S10, consisting of a dual-lens setup and a third ultrawide lens. The sensors will be made by a division of Samsung itself. Because the Galaxy S10 is not official yet, this is difficult to verify, but sounds plausible enough.

Making the folding smartphone has been a serious challenge, with Samsung’s senior vice president of the Visual R&D team, Hark-sang Kim, writing that it has had to rethink the placement of all regular components, including the battery, camera, and cooling, to make the phone possible. Samsung is working with Google to develop a new user interface for Android on its smartphone — dubbed OneUI — and it will allow for features specific to foldable phones.

Infinity Flex Display

What do we know about the amazing folding screen? Samsung offered a first look at the new phone at its 2018 developer conference. It was mostly hidden from view, but we were able to see the foldable part in action with the screen.

The new display that will make the folding smartphone possible is called the Infinity Flex Display, and it has taken seven years to develop, according to Samsung’s senior vice president of visual research and development, Hark-sang Kim.

It’s designed to be folded and unfolded repeatedly — a motion Samsung says is natural and durable — without degrading the display quality. Samsung said it can be folded hundreds of thousands of times without showing signs of wear and tear, and uses a new material to “change the anatomy of the smartphone display.”

The display was wrapped in a chunky outer shell that Samsung said was specifically done to keep the design a secret. We do know that the screen will measure 7.3 inches when folded out, and a second 4.6-inch screen will be visible on the outside when the device is folded up, according to ETNews.

On stage, we saw the display was folded and unfolded a few times. When unfolded, the device looked largely like a tablet — and when folded up, the outer display immediately activated and displayed whatever app was open at the time.

Name

Let's Go Digital

What will the phone be called? We don’t know yet. It has been referred to as the Galaxy X and Galaxy F and was once known as Project Valley too. Additionally, Dutch tech website Let’s Go Digital unearthed a November 2018 trademark application filed in Turkey for the name Samsung Galaxy Fold. In the company name field, the application states “Legally Restricted Until Publication Date,” however we’re nearly certain Samsung filed the application since the trademark request is for a product that includes the already trademarked Galaxy name.

Updated on February 11, 2019: Samsung teases a reveal of the phone during the Galaxy S10 event.

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