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Samsung foldable phone: Everything we know so far

Samsung will reportedly announce its folding smartphone at MWC in February

Think the Samsung Edge display was cool? Something cooler is on the way. We’ve been hearing about foldable displays for a number of years, and Samsung finally gave us an idea of what a phone with this technology will look like at its annual Samsung Developer Conference.

Information about the phone, which has been rumored to be called the Galaxy X or Galaxy F (not to be confused with the Galaxy S10 that we also anticipate), has slowly been trickling out over the last year or two. We’ll be referring to it as Samsung’s foldable phone to keep things simple until an official name is revealed. Here’s everything we think we know about it so far.

Release and price

So when should we expect to see Samsung’s folding masterpiece out in the wild? Rumors suggested that the phone wouldn’t make its way to consumers until 2019, and now it’s almost certain that those rumors were true. At the Samsung Developer Conference, Samsung said that it would be ready to mass-produce foldable displays in “coming months,” which means that the phone itself probably won’t make an appearance until a few months after that.

We expect the new device to be out at some point in the first half of 2019. It may make an appearance at CES in January, or Samsung may wait until Mobile World Congress, which is in February. The latest rumor, courtesy of the South Korean Yonhap News Agency, states the phone will be announced at Mobile World Congress in February 2019 and released the following month.

When it comes to price, however, things are even more unknown — all we really have right now is speculation. Expect to pay a high price for the phone. Kim Jang-yeol, head of research at Golden Bridge Investment, says the phone could cost as much as 2 million won at release, Korea Times reports. In the U.S., that converts to about $1,850. This is similar to the Royole Flexpai, a folding smartphone with a small production run.

This project has been in the cards for some time. Samsung made reference to flexible and folding screens in its end-of-2017 financial report, discussing 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 reportedly showed its first foldable phone prototype in a private meeting at CES 2014.

Specifications

While Samsung did discuss the display at the Samsung Developer Conference, it did not go into the specs under the hood. To date, there’s only one rumor about specs for the upcoming Samsung foldable phone. The prolific (and usually accurate) Samsung leaker Ice Universe said the upcoming phone will feature a 7nm processor.

While Samsung recently invested billions in a foundry to create 7nm chipsets, the newly announced Exynos 9820 SoC is actually based on 8nm architecture. There is a chance, however, Samsung will release a 7nm with 5G capability for its upcoming folding smartphone and a 5G enabled Samsung Galaxy S10.

There’s also the possibility the foldable phone will be a gaming phone. Earlier this year, a tweet from @MMDDJ_ said the phone would be gaming focused and not be called the Galaxy X, Granted, there are a lot of questions surrounding the accuracy of the leak since the leaker doesn’t have an excellent track record, and other, more recent, rumors have no mention of gaming and refer to it as the Galaxy X.

Infinity Flex Display

Samsung offered a first look at the new phone at the conference. It was mostly hidden from view, but we were able to see the foldable part in action with the screen.

The new display is called the “Infinity Flex Display.” It’s designed to be folded and unfolded repeatedly without degrading the display quality. Samsung said it can be folded hundreds of thousands of times without showing signs of wear and tear. 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.

While the main thing that Samsung showed off at the conference was the display, the company is working on a number of different applications for flexible displays, including rollable displays and stretchable ones. Those types likely won’t make an appearance in this particular device, but their development could help Samsung make a display with a more durable build. As mentioned, Samsung said that the display on the new device could be folded “hundreds of thousands” of times, essentially meaning that it should last much longer than the average life span of a smartphone.

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. Based on what we saw, it seemed as though the device had two displays — one larger display on the inside, and one smaller one to be used when the device was folded up. In other words, instead of the device folding out to use the same display when folded, the main display folded into the device to then activate the smaller exterior display. Samsung also made reference to its other Infinity Display types, including the Infinity V, Infinity U, and Infinity O displays, with the letters referring to the different notch shape.

Design

Unfortunately, Samsung didn’t reveal too much about the design of the phone, beyond the display and what it can do, but we do know that you’ll be able to use the phone when it’s folded up as well, and it will act like a traditional smartphone in this mode. Samsung also announced it’s 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. All of these announcements were made at Samsung’s developer conference, meaning the company still needs third-party developers to bring foldable phone support to their apps.

Let's Go Digital

Concept drawings and patents may give us an idea of other possible designs. 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.

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.

Patent image for the Samsung foldable diplay 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.

Updated on November 14, 2018: Added announcement rumors and Exynos chipset information. 

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