Stop us if you heard this before, but Samsung has a folding smartphone in the works.
Credit: Graphene Square Inc.The phone, reportedly called the Galaxy X, seems to have been in the works for years. In that time, countless reports have speculated on whether Samsung’s device would fold in or out, be the size of a smartphone or a tablet (or both), and ultimately attract an audience in a decidedly flat and rigid smartphone market.
But there’s been an even bigger mystery about Samsung’s folding phone: When will the device actually launch? Each time a report has claimed the Galaxy X would soon be available, the folding smartphone has been a no-show. And that includes the most recent date: shortly after Samsung reconfirmed plans to launch the product in 2018 under its Galaxy Note brand, Qualcomm disputed those statements in March, seemingly putting them to rest.
Here’s a look at all we think we know so far about the Galaxy X.
Latest News (July 6)
Release Date and Cost
We were told (several times, in fact) that we’d see the Galaxy X — or whatever Samsung ultimately ends up calling its foldable handset — in 2018. The latest indication came from a Jan. 31 earnings call, where the company stated it plans to “differentiate through development of cutting-edge products such as foldable OLED smartphones.”
Back in September 2017, Samsung mobile chief DJ Koh told Bloomberg that the Galaxy X was in development and said that there was a strong likelihood the smartphone will be available sometime in 2018, though he conceded the project may also be delayed if any troubles arose.
While we can’t definitively say what, if any, troubles did arise, it would seem that sources outside Samsung aren’t bullish on the prospect of a 2018 launch. The first indication arrived via statements from Salman Saeed, Qualcomm’s product manager of display technology, made to TechRadar. Saeed said all the major Android OEMs “haven’t really cracked the material science right now to produce electrodes that can repeatedly withstand bending and folding.”
A more recent hint of yet another delay came from The Bell, a Korean business news site, which claimed Samsung has pushed the Galaxy X’s launch to the Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona. This year, MWC began the final week of February. If that report holds any water, it means we could be less than 10 months away from seeing the highly anticipated product in the flesh. Other reports have suggested a potential preview at January’s CES trade show, though that could be limited to a prototype that only carriers see behind closed doors. Still, another rumor from serial leaker Ice Universe has the Galaxy X arriving at CES 2019, followed by the Galaxy S10 later in the spring.
It’s still unknown how much the Galaxy X might cost, but it’s potentially going to be a lot. The head of research at Golden Bridge Investment told the Korea Times that the phone could run 2 million won, which translates to $1,841 in U.S. dollars. Even if Samsung were to adjust pricing based on region, you’d still expect to pay a lot for a foldable phone, since the Galaxy Note 8, which doesn’t fold, debuted at $929.
The Galaxy X’s design has been a bit of a moving target over the last few years, as reports have offered conflicting details on exactly how it might look and operate.
Credit: Patently MobileBack in 2014, a Samsung executive said that the company was considering a flexible smartphone that could fold in half. At the time, the executive said that the smartphone would arrive in 2015.
That design concept was bolstered in 2016, when a Samsung patent surfaced showing a device that could fold like a flip phone of old. The smartphone in the patent had a hinge at the middle that would allow you to fold it in one direction. It also came with a camera on the back.
MORE: How Critics Got the iPhone X ‘Panic’ Story So Very Wrong
Soon after, another patent was discovered that showed a smartphone with a wavy design with multiple curves along its axis. While it was similarly foldable, it appeared to have a bit more flexibility than the other version of the handset.
But that’s far from the only reports we’ve seen over the years. Others, including one from GalaxyClub, suggested that the smartphone would be similar to a Galaxy S8 but taller. A competing rumor claimed that the smartphone would be thinner than most devices, since folding it could make it more difficult to fit inside pants pockets.
Samsung’s Youm Folding Smartphone
The design rumors haven’t stopped there. One report has Samsung’s folding smartphone offering a two-sided screen, which would create far more display real estate than you’d find elsewhere. Exactly what you’d do with your fingers while you’re holding the device and trying to not to interact with the software, however, is unknown.
In December 2017, Let’s Go Digital obtained a patent filing from Samsung that appears to show a folding smartphone with a hinge-like connector between two screens. One of the screens would apparently be the smartphone itself. Interestingly, the patent shows a device with thick bezels and a physical home button.
The other display has a similar design but ditches the home button, front-facing camera, and other components. It appears that second component is little more than a secondary screen. The connector between the two not only keeps the device together but ensures connectivity and interaction between the components.
Aside from that, the Galaxy X would ditch the bezels altogether, leaving nothing but screen, at least on its face. Given that the foldable phone would launch under the Galaxy Note brand, it’s also possible it will sport an S Pen stylus, similar to the Galaxy Note 8.
The latest report from ETNews suggests that Samsung is looking at a design where the phone would fold two-thirds of the way. That would leave a portion of the screen always visible, displaying the time or letting users see incoming calls without having to unfold the phone.
According to a report from 2017, Samsung’s smartphone could have a display around 5 or 6 inches. However, with help from an unrolling mechanism built into the smartphone, that screen could actually be unfurled to 8 inches, if not more, when fully extended. (For what it’s worth, ETNews’ report lists the screen at 7 inches.)
Credit: Almesryoon.comIt’s also worth noting that we’re still not sure whether the smartphone will come with one or two screens. If there is actually a hinge built with the device, two screens seem likely.
Another Samsung patent that surfaced in January 2018 suggested the company is working on a flexible design for the Galaxy X. The flexible screen would allow users to curve the handset at will.
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The display, which was earlier reported on by GSM Arena, would also come with an Apple 3D Touch-like feature, giving you more contextual information the harder you press on the screen. It’s the first time that a possible 3D Touch feature has been floated for Samsung’s handset.
Speculation abounds that Samsung will make the Galaxy X a high-end device that could ultimately run on a powerful processor like the upcoming Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 chip, but Samsung hasn’t confirmed that. The Galaxy S9 was the first to get that chipset.
Samsung’s Foldable Phone
Beyond that, we haven’t heard about camera quality yet, nor has anyone confirmed whether this foldable phone would incorporate the fingerprint-, iris- and face-scanning features found on current Samsung flagships.
MORE: 12 Reasons the Galaxy Note 8 Beats the iPhone X
If the reports are true that the Galaxy Note 9 will be the first phone in Samsung’s stable to feature a fingerprint sensor embedded into the screen, it’s safe to assume that capability would find its way to the Galaxy X as well. However, more recent rumors suggest the Note 9 will keep its fingerprint sensor on the back of the phone, with an embedded sensor not appearing until 2019’s Galaxy S10.
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