Flexible display technology is mature enough to release foldable smartphones, but the question of how users will interact with them is still unclear.
Smartphone manufacturers are continuing to experiment with form factors and modalities for foldable phones.Although flexible display technology allows for any configuration of folds, other smartphone components such as batteries are not similarly flexible, forcing phones to be developed with a fixed fold point. The question for manufacturers is where that fold point should be placed: The previously announced Galaxy Fold folds inward like a notebook, though Huawei's Mate X folds outward.
Samsung is developing two additional phones to complement the Galaxy Fold, including one that folds outward like the Mate X, according to a Bloomberg report published Tuesday. This outward-folding model will lack the additional screen added to the front of the Galaxy Fold, making it thinner.
A vertically folding phone is also being prototyped by Samsung, which the company plans to unveil "late this year or early next year," according to the report. The vertically folding concept may have a front-facing screen, making it similar to the classic Motorola RAZR flip phone. Motorola (Lenovo) is also speculated to be joining the fray with a foldable phone that mimics the same form factor as the RAZR.
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The report also notes that Samsung is working on techniques to improve the durability of the display in the Galaxy Fold, as a crease appears in the screen after "about 10,000" folds, with Samsung "considering offering free screen replacements," the report states.
Foldable phones are expected to revitalize sales in the smartphone market, which have fallen in recent years as iterative designs have failed to provoke interest in upgrades. However, the Galaxy Fold's $1980 price tag for the 4G SKU will put it outside the reach of early adopters without deep pockets.
LG, Samsung's primary domestic competitor, is declining to release a folding phone in 2019, opting for a dual-screen design for the V50, a 5G phone expected later this year. LG is expected to release a 65" TV that unrolls this year, using technology similar to that found in folding phones. LG first publicly demonstrated rollable TV technology at CES 2016, though will only be widely available this year.
For more, check out TechRepublic's video on what's different between the Samsung Galaxy Fold and Huawei Mate X, and What Samsung's Galaxy Fold, Galaxy S10e, Galaxy S10, Galaxy S10 Plus and Galaxy S10 5G mean for IT.
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