What we know so far about Samsung’s foldable phone (Updated September 5)

By | 13th May 2018

Samsung foldable phone

Update, September 5, 2018 (03:53PM EST): We’ve added new information about the supposed launch date of the Samsung foldable phone as well as what it could potentially look like. Read on for more info!


It’s been one of the biggest rumored smartphone projects of all time. If it happens, it could start the next major revolution in the mobile phone industry, surpassing the current bezel-less display trend. We are talking about the many rumors and reports that Samsung is working on a phone with a flexible display that can actually fold, either inward or outward.

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So far, we have yet to see a real Samsung foldable phone hit the market. However, there are lots of indications that Samsung not only plans to launch such a smartphone but that it could finally happen by the end of this year, or in early 2019.

In this article, we take a look at what we currently know about the almost mythical Samsung foldable phone, along with all of the rumors about this device that have been reported over the years. We will be updating this article with the latest plausible news and rumors about this foldable smartphone from Samsung as they are reported.

Samsung foldable phone: A brief history

The rumors about a Samsung phone with a foldable display have been popping up for years — yes, years. Samsung has been pretty open about its research into making flexible displays, and it’s been working on them for over a decade. In 2008, the company first showed an OLED screen that could be bent for a smartphone. At CES in 2011, Samsung actually showed off a prototype for a smartphone with a flexible AMOLED display.

However, making a flexible display is one thing. Making it work in mass quantities for a consumer smartphone is something else. Samsung has filed a number of patents for foldable phones and displays over the years. In 2013, there were rumors that the company was actually going to announce such a phone, the Galaxy Q, during that year’s Mobile World Congress trade show.

Those rumors suggested the phone would have a foldable dual Super AMOLED HD display with a 1,920 x 1,080 resolution, along with Samsung’s own Exynos 5250 processor, 2GB of RAM, an 8MP rear camera, and a 2MP front camera. However, no such phone was announced at that event, at least not to the general public or reporters.

In 2014, Samsung posted a video showing a concept for a foldable phone, featuring a small display on the outside. The phone then folded out to show a larger display that’s stored inside with a flexible screen. Later that year, a Samsung executive claimed that the company would “secure production capacity of 30,000 to 40,000 [flexible displays each month] by the end of next year”. Yet, 2015 came and went with no such announcement of flexible displays, much less a phone with such a screen.

In 2015, another rumor popped up that Samsung was working on a new device with the code name “Project Valley”. Instead of a flexible screen, this rumored phone was supposed to have a pair of separate screens.

That mythical smartphone was rumored to launch sometime in 2016, but again it didn’t happen. In the meantime, Samsung continued to post patents on its foldable phone display research. In April 2017, Kim Tae-woong, Samsung Display’s principal engineer, was quoted as saying that a Samsung foldable phone would not be released before 2019. However, just a few months later, in September 2017, the CEO of Samsung, DJ Koh, told reporters,”We will launch a foldable device when we are fully ready, and we are aiming to do so next year (2018).”

Samsung foldable phone LetsGoDigital

In 2018, rumors hit the internet that Samsung had once again showed prototypes of smartphones with flexible displays behind closed doors at CES. Later this year, a patent filing with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) was leaked, showing a Samsung phone concept with a flexible 7.3-inch OLED display. This design features a device that folds inside. Some reports have referred to this product as the “Galaxy X”.

The latest rumor about a future Samsung foldable phone indicates the company has given the project a new internal code name: “Winner“. It adds that the phone could launch as early as November of this year at the Samsung Developers Conference in San Francisco.

Samsung foldable phone: Name and release date

Samsung

As we mentioned, there have been a number of rumored code names for the Samsung foldable phone, including “Project Valley”, “Galaxy X” and “Winner”. However, none of them are expected to be the actual name when the handset itself is released.

Recently, there have been consistent rumors relating to the production and potential release date of Samsung’s foldable phone. In April, The Bell reported that Samsung planned to start production of the device in November with the aim of releasing it in early 2019.

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At the end of June, ETNews added some weight to these rumors. It said Samsung has built a pilot line for the manufacture of foldable displays at its OLED factory in Korea and will begin testing out the line in the summer. If all goes well with testing, Samsung plans to convert the pilot line into one for mass production by the end of the year, according to ETNews.

At the beginning of July, MK cited a senior official from Samsung as saying the company has already completed development of the phone and that it is preparing to release the device in the first quarter of next year. Those looking to get their hands on a foldable phone should perhaps start saving now, however: MK suggests Samsung will sell the device for close to 2 million won (around $1,791).

Whether that’s completely accurate or not, Samsung’s first folding screen phone certainly won’t be cheap.

In the middle of July, The Wall Street Journal cited people familiar with the project as saying Samsung will launch its foldable phone in early 2019. That could coincide with an announcement at Mobile World Congress. The phone would then be available sometime in the second half of 2019.

The same report also alleged that the phone could cost over $1,500 and will be pushed toward niche users, such as gamers.

Finally, most recently in September, Samsung mobile division CEO DJ Koh said that the foldable smartphone could make an appearance at the Samsung Developer Conference which takes place Nov. 7-8 in San Francisco. He added that that development of the device has “nearly concluded,” although warned that the process is “complicated.”

If this is true, the device could be shown to developers at the conference but not hit store shelves until 2019.

Read: As good as it gets: has the smartphone peaked?

Samsung foldable phone: Specs and design

Samsung foldable phone

It’s too early to speculate about the hardware specs for the Samsung foldable phone, but we have some ideas about the design after seeing numerous concepts over the years.

Some show a device that folds out to reveal a smartphone with a standard size display, but can be folded inside so it can fit in smaller pockets. Others have a display on the outside that works like a smartphone, but the inside can fold out to show an even larger tablet-like display.

Read: What would a foldable Samsung Galaxy Note actually look like?

Some rumors (and again, these are just rumors) suggest that Samsung’s 2019 “Winner” foldable phone will have an in-fold design, with one 3.5-inch OLED display outside, and two 3.5-inch OLED screens inside that fold out to a larger 7-inch display.

 

Samsung folding phone design concept.

Samsung Galaxy  potential design concepts.

Most recent reports claim that the device will have a display that is 7.3-inches. This lines up with the rumored display size of a prototype device that was reportedly shown to potential clients at CES 2018.

ETNews, meanwhile, suggests Samsung is planning an infolding device that will fold two-thirds of the way up, not in half. This would allow users to access some features without having to unfold the phone.

As for the hinge itself, The Bell publication (translated version) reports that Korean firm KH Vatec is supplying the component. The outlet adds that the hinge will have a gear so the phone can be folded and used at various degrees like a laptop. This is opposed to the hinge only delivering folded and unfolded options.

If confirmed, this hinge design could mean that users don’t have to hunch over the phone to see the display, as you can simply tilt the screen back even more. This could be an especially interesting option for air travelers using cramped foldaway tables.

Samsung folding phone design concept.

Another inward folding phone design concept.

Samsung will probably want to equip the phone with a large battery to go with the large display too. SamMobile reported that Samsung will begin producing flexible batteries with capacities ranging from 3,000mAh to 6,000mAh later this year.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the foldable phone will have a 7-inch display. When folded, the phone will reportedly have cameras on the back and a small display on the front.

Most recently, sources told ETNews that the foldable phone Samsung plans to bring to its developers conference in November will look a lot like the prototype shown at CES in 2014 (see previous section). This would be a surprising turn of events, considering it’s been nearly five years since we saw that design.

The phone will also reportedly feature a larger battery and powerful processor, though Samsung is concerned about possible overheating. The last thing the company wants is a repeat of its Galaxy Note 7 debacle, so it will likely take the proper steps to avoid that mess.

Samsung foldable phone: Possible rivals?

LG foldable phone

A folding display concept from LG.

While Samsung has been the biggest talking point with regard to foldable phones, it’s not the only company that has shown interest in this kind of device.

We have seen phones released with twin displays that fold into each other, connected by a hinge, from companies like Sony and most recently from ZTE with the Axon M.

Huawei has also revealed it is working on a foldable phone of its own. Recent speculation indicates the company is working with LG Design on the flexible display for it, with an inward form factor, and that it was hoping to launch it by November, possibly beating Samsung to the punch.

In 2016, Lenovo showed off prototype concepts for a foldable smartphone and tablet, including a phone that could literally wrap around a person’s wrist (seen above). Since then, however, Lenovo has not revealed any plans to release the concept as part of a consumer device.

Samsung foldable phone: Final thoughts

There is no doubt that research and development for a Samsung foldable phone has been going on for years, and if the most recent rumors and reports are accurate, the company might actually release such a foldable smartphone either by the end of this year or at the beginning of the next. However, we have seen lots of reports in the past that this device has been right around the corner, only to be disappointed when it didn’t materialize. Hopefully, these latest reports won’t follow the same fate.

Are you excited about the prospect of a foldable phone from Samsung? Let us know in the comments.