Samsung has unveiled its much-anticipated foldable phone, with experts saying it could reinvigorate the smartphone market.
The tech giant revealed a glimpse of the smartphone on Thursday at its Samsung Developer Conference in San Francisco, showing off a prototype of technology called ‘Infinity Flex Display’.
The device, which was briefly demonstrated on stage, features a screen on the front of the device like a regular smartphone, but then opens like a book to reveal a 7.3-inch display capable of running three apps at once.
Dave Burke, vice president of engineering for Android, said it was working closely with Samsung on a new device it planned to launch next year.
“It’s an exciting concept and we expect to see foldable products from several Android manufacturers,” Mr Burke said.
China’s Huawei has also said it is planning to launch a 5G smartphone with a foldable screen in mid-2019.
‘Dreaming about this for decades’
Dr Belinda Barnet, media and communications senior lecturer at Swinburne University, said the device looked exciting.
“Technologists have been thinking and dreaming about this for decades. Clearly this is an attempt to reinvigorate the smartphone market, given it is rather saturated and it might just work,” Dr Barnet told The New Daily.
“Mobile screens are often too small when you’ve got work to do when you’re on the move. This appears to be a portable solution.”
But she warned the device also had the potential to be a flop.
“We all thought Google Glass was the best innovation since sliced bread and that didn’t go far,” Dr Barnet said.
“If they get the technology right it would need applications for e-books and e-readers too. Samsung would not be the only company investing in this space.”
Digital Eagles marketing agency chief executive Ryan Jenkins said the tablet market had been struggling with sales.
“There’s a strong need for consumers to have larger screens, especially on their journey to work,” Mr Jenkins told The New Daily.
“I think that when you have a shift like this in markets it reinvigorates video content production and it’s something that website developers will be conscious of to ensure they have a responsive template and design.”
Mr Jenkins said other tech companies would follow in Samsung’s footsteps.
“Consumers could respond really well to this because you could essentially use the device as a laptop, tablet and smartphone – so it’s going to be so much more convenient,” he said.
But Dr Mark Gregory, telco expert at Swinburne University, said the device could be a disappointment.
“I think there’s a number of considerations before purchasing the device, such as the phone being quite thick and heavy,” Dr Gregory told The New Daily.
“If it’s done properly then it could be a real game-changer and it’s good that they’re listening to what customers want.
“Its demand though will remain to be seen.”
The tech behind foldable phones
Ravi Silva, director of Advanced Technology Institute at the University of Surrey, predicted the technology behind Samsung’s foldable phone in September in an article for The Conversation.
“Samsung’s flexible OLED screen is likely to have the most basic level of flexibility, with the ability to be bent and curved without distorting the display but not completely folded,” Dr Silva wrote.
“The level of flexibility might be increased as the nanotechnology in the screens improves, as the nanowires used to carry electricity through the displays become more flexible at smaller diameters.”
In the future, rollable displays could be rolled up like a scroll, Dr Silva said.
“The newest and most exciting idea for creating these screens is to use new ‘auxetic’ materials, which become thicker as they are stretched rather than thinner.”