Thursday, 14 September 2017 10:10

Samsung teases ‘foldable Note’ smartphone for 2018 Featured

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A truly foldable smartphone still seems as far away as a roll-up TV or twistable tablet, but Samsung suggests a Note with a “bendable display” might show up in 2018.

Presumably seeking to sprinkle a bit of a spoiler on Apple’s iPhone launches yesterday, the president of mobile business at Samsung Electronics in Korea, Koh Dong-jin, told the media a foldable phone was in Samsung’s future.

Of course, such a development needs to be genuinely useful. I mean, who truly needs a roll-up TV or twistable tablet?

That said, a phone that could fold out like a book, but without damage to the screen, could deliver a two-in-one tablet telephone of super smartphone proportions, leading to the question as to whether electric Androids dream of ringtone beeps.

Koh was quoted by Bloomberg as stating: “As the head of the business, I can say our current goal is next year. When we can overcome some problems for sure, we will launch the product."

He added: “When we can overcome some problems for sure, we will launch the product. We are digging thoroughly into several issues we must overcome, as we don’t want to just make a few, sell a few and be done. We want to hear that Samsung made a very good product. We have a plan to adopt a foldable display in our roadmap.”

As Bloomberg noted, this left room for Samsung to push back the launch of such a product, given Koh spoke of “several hurdles to overcome”, something that seems obvious with this time next year just 12 months away, a timeframe you’d imagine seems too short to truly deliver foldable phone nirvana.

TechCrunch also has thoughts on this development, as does The Verge, and TechRadar.

Obviously, any such phone will need to be more than just a trade show tech demo, but must be thin, light, powerful, practical, genuinely useful and delivering features and benefits on which people would want to spend what would presumably be well over A$1500.

It also has to fit easily in the hand, and probably needs two screens – an internal screen, and an external screen for when the device is folded, allowing easy one-handed use. Or you fold the internal screen so when folded, you have a screen on both sides, rather than the backs of the device.

The extremely obvious question arises: how many times can the screen be folded before it shows some kind of damage? I mean, you try folding a thin piece of metal, for example, and see how many times you can do it before it breaks.

Will the fold be seamless? How much of a seam is acceptable? It has to be for such a device to be credible, or you simply end up with two separate screens and a hinge, and is that truly practical, or simply two current smartphones stuck together for no particularly good reason?

Naturally, Samsung’s presumably highly paid scientists, researchers, R&D people are more have thought of all these questions and many, many more, a long time ago, and would presumably have all manner of prototypes well in production as it seeks to solve the situations that make hardware problems hard.

So, if Samsung is truly able to release such a foldable Note phone next year, or in 2019 or even 2020, it will certainly be a solid achievement.

Until then, Samsung has plenty of Note8s to sell, with the official day of availability still to come next week, and still sells as many S8 and S8+ models as it can, along with its A series and the rest of its global range.

That also leaves Apple with plenty of iPhone 8 models to sell, as many iPhone X models to sell as it can (with each iPhone X featuring an OLED panel made by Samsung for Apple), and the rest of Apple’s own iDevice range.

The epic battle and the Game of Phones continues for yet another season – may it never end!

Here’s a Samsung foldable phone concept video from 2014:

Here’s another concept video from the Internet from Youtuber MobyCat:

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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