Rumors of a bendable, foldable smartphone from Samsung have been floating around for years. There are more questions than answers at this point, but it’s looking (slightly) more likely that Samsung will indeed start manufacturing the so-called Galaxy X folding smartphone this year. The company has already publicly stated that the phone would launch in 2018 and even more rumors pointed to an early appearance at either CES or Mobile World Congress (MWC). The former has come and gone with nothing from Samsung, and I wouldn’t put money on the latter. So let’s take a look at what we know at this point and when to realistically expect a foldable smartphone.
Samsung’s earnings report today provided another big hint that production of bendable OLED displays are a near-term goal for the company. “As for the Mobile business, Samsung will continue its efforts to differentiate its smartphones by adopting cutting-edge technologies, such as foldable OLED displays.” This is a vital component for a seamless foldable smartphone.
The expected Galaxy X is rumored to have a massive 7.3-inch display when open and can fold into a conventional size for better portability and a more familiar experience (assuming it has a second screen when closed). There are still hurdles to overcome with such a new technology, with long-term durability being an ongoing problem. Koh Dong-jin, Samsung’s mobile chief, recently said, “There are still durability issues that we need to address.” I interpret this as an issue with creases and other physical damage to OLED panels from repeated bends and folds.
The new phone is sure to carry a premium price tag, possibly higher than Apple’s staggeringly priced iPhone X, so buyers will demand a phone that’s free of defects. During the earnings call Q&A session, Samsung commented that it clearly understands that bendable OLED displays must meet an expected “level of execution and completeness” to satisfy high expectations. Whether or not the company can deliver a finished product this year remains to be seen, but MWC 2019 or a separate even shortly afterwards is probably when the Galaxy X will launch (at the earliest).