Samsung’s first foldable phone is not just a hot rumor anymore. The phone was officially unveiled in early November, at Samsung’s 2018 developer conference. However, Samsung only showed the main screen of the device, demoed the new One UI interface that will run on top of Android, and revealed some of the phone’s specs. Samsung did not show the full product or share any press renders of the phone’s design. It didn’t even announce a name for the handset, which is rumored to be called Galaxy F, Galaxy Flex, or Galaxy Fold. But Samsung did bring the handset at CES 2019 to show this almost final version to partners.
That’s hardly surprising news considering that Samsung first talked about its foldable smartphone screen technology at CES many years ago. Every edition that followed came with rumors about Samsung showing the foldable handset to potential clients — and we’ve been waiting for the Galaxy F to launch in stores for a couple of years now.
What’s changed in 2019 is that we’re looking at a nearly complete version of the phone, one that probably looks a lot like the one Samsung showed on stage back in November. And that’s the phone Samsung’s clients will have to decide whether to sell in stores this year or not.
Korea’s The Investor talked to execs who attended those meetings, and which revealed how it feels to use Samsung’s foldable phone.
“When unfolded, Samsung’s foldable phone does not show any crease indicating it had been bent,” said one exec. “However, completely folding the device will lead to breakage. For this reason, Samsung is testing the device so that the sides remain slightly lifted when folded. The prototype seen today leaves a crease mark when being folded, but this issue will be fixed in the finalized version.”
With foldable devices, we’ll always worry about damaging the screen when the handset is folded. A Bloomberg report said on the same day the iPhone XR hit stores last year that Samsung’s foldable phone has a screen that can easily crack. “When it cracks, [the screen] shatters like dried paper,” the story said, to emphasize the difficulties that Samsung may encounter during mass-production. That foldable screen, however, is covered by a protective film.
A different exec who say the foldable phone at CES said the device is thinner when opened. When folded, the device offers a stable grip and doesn’t feel thick.
A third executive who looked at the phone said it felt “similar to when Nokia first launched its folder phone.” Samsung’s phone is “specialized for multitasking,” he said, and would be “highly useful for people who own both a smartphone and tablet.”
Samsung will target men in their 40s when it launches the foldable phone in stores later this year. Men in their 40s are familiarized with this form factor from phones introduced in the 1990s and prefer phones with bigger screens, which can be used for work and entertainment.
“Because it’s equipped with the latest flexible display and battery technology, Samsung’s foldable phone is likely to be sold for 1.5 million won (US$1,336) or more. Therefore, the company appears to have chosen men in their 40s with purchasing power as the prime customer base,” another industry official said.
Samsung didn’t announce anything about the phone during its CES press conference, so we still don’t know what it’ll be called, when it’ll be launched, and how much it’ll cost.