Samsung is in the final stages of developing commercial devices with foldable screens, Bloomberg reports.
Citing persons with knowledge of the matter, Bloomberg says Samsung is currently working on two devices that feature folding displays.
One of the two devices folds in half like a cosmetic compact, claim the sources. While the report doesn’t provide more details, we can speculate that this device could look and work like a flip phone, perhaps similar to the Galaxy W (2016).
The other device will reportedly unfold from a 5-inch form factor into an 8-inch one. If you find it difficult to visualize the concept, a Samsung demo video from 2014 could offer some aid. The relevant bit starts at 0:33.
The two devices are developed as part of Project Valley, Bloomberg said, confirming an earlier report from SamMobile. As for their commercial names, the folding devices will not be marketed under the Galaxy S moniker. Previous rumors hinted at “Galaxy X” as a possible name for the new series.
The folding devices may launch as soon as early 2017, potentially at MWC 2017 Barcelona in February. The timeframe isn’t set in stone though.
Samsung has been working on flexible and folding displays for years. The key breakthrough was the replacement of the conventional glass support with a plastic-based substrate that can be flexed without damaging it. Beyond that, Samsung had to ensure that flexible displays could withstand thousands of bends without degrading image quality. According to Lee Seung Woo, an analyst at IBK Securities Co. in Seoul, Samsung finally managed to crack this durability problem.
Another major hurdle in the commercialization of folding displays was to achieve small curvature radiuses. Samsung’s first commercial flexible display phone, the Galaxy Round, had a very subtle curve (high curvature radius). The Galaxy Note Edge and S Edge series featured more pronounced curvatures (smaller curvature radiuses). The displays of Project Valley devices will bend around even smaller radiuses.
Back in January, Samsung confirmed that its folding display technology is making good progress. In April, sources told ETNews that Samsung would be mass-producing flexible displays by the end of the year. That dovetails with a possible MWC 2017 launch.
A number of patent applications provide clues about the avenues that Samsung is exploring with flexible display products, including wallet-style folding phones or tablets that can be rolled up into a tube.
Folding devices could be a game-changer for Samsung and the smartphone market as a whole. A new and exciting form factor could spur a smartphone renaissance, at a time when mature markets have become saturated and developing markets are heading towards commoditization.