Samsung unveils breakthrough folding smartphone

Samsung unveils breakthrough folding smartphone

Samsung unveiled the device at a conference in San Francisco

By James Titcomb, San Francisco 7 NOVEMBER 2018 • 7:59PM

Samsung has become the first major smartphone manufacturer to unveil a folding phone as it seeks to reboot a stagnant mobile market.

The Korean company, the world’s biggest mobile phone maker, said its bendy screen technology would usher in “a new generation of smartphones” as it unveiled a prototype handset at an event in San Francisco.

The device is the size of a tablet computer and features a large 7.3-inch screen, but can fold in on itself, shutting like a book. When folded in half, a second screen on the outside means it can operate like a pocket-friendly smartphone.

Phone displays have become bigger each year as they are increasingly used for watching videos, reading and social media. However, bigger screens have meant a trade-off in portability that has frustrated some users. Several phone companies are now working on phones that can fold up to fit in a pocket as the next step.

Samsung did not give many details of the new phone, such as how much it will cost or when it plans to put it on sale, except to say it will go into production “in the coming months”.

The company sold an estimated 72.2m handsets in the third quarter of the year, but sales fell by 13.4pc year-on-year amid a declining market. The slowing pace of phone updates and rising prices has made consumers less willing to upgrade on a regular basis.

Samsung’s Justin Denison said the screen technology, which uses a compound of synthetic materials instead of glass to allow it to bend, would be “the foundation for the smartphone of tomorrow”.

Samsung said the phone would be able to run three apps at once - two on the bigger screen and a third on the separate, smaller display.

Geoff Blaber, an analyst at CCS Insight, said folding phones were unlikely to catch on immediately, and would need support from app developers to ensure they function properly.

"This will start as a niche device but has a deeply strategic longer-term role as Samsung seeks to differentiate in an increasingly saturated and homogeneous smartphone market,” Mr Blaber said.

"Success is dependent on apps and content that make use of the display and that will take time, investment and refinement. This is unlikely to become a mainstream device in the near term but has a longer term significance"


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