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Samsung Foldable Phone: Apps Will 'Tell' Form Factor's Future

The long-awaited Samsung foldable phone is poised for release, but how long will it take for a critical mass of apps for the form factor to appear?

The Samsung foldable phone has been grist for the rumor mill for years, but some details are beginning to emerge as the phone is poised for release. Meanwhile, analysts question how long it will take until there are enough apps available for the form factor to make sense in day-to-day use.  

In the first quarter of 2019, the South-Korea based company is expected to debut a phone that easily fits in a pocket but flips open to resemble a tablet, along with the launch of new Galaxy S10 models.

At the the company’s developer conference in early November, Samsung Senior Vice President of Marketing Justin Denison showed the phone and its Infinity Flex display.

“Until now, displays have been static, meaning once we combined all the component layers, they never had to move,” Denison said at the conference’s keynote. “Now, that's all changed, as the Infinity Flex display has been designed to be folded and unfolded repeatedly without any degradation. To do this, we had to find a new kind of malleable adhesive that allows us to laminate the display layers together securely, while enabling them to flex. This new display flexible and durable enough to be folded hundreds of thousands of times.”

Dennison said the Infinity Flex is the thinnest display the company has ever made.

“In this case, we had the opportunity to reduce the thickness of the polarizer, which is an essential layer that filters external light reducing glare so that you can read the display. And to solve this, we created a new polarizer that's 45 percent thinner.”

The company in a statement said the Samsung foldable phone’s “app experience seamlessly transitions from the smaller display to the larger display as the device unfolds.”  

Samsung says users will be able to run and view three apps at the same time on the device, via its One UI interface. “[The] clean and minimal design keeps the most relevant content on the bottom half of the screen, making it more natural and comfortable for one-handed use. The experience was reengineered to reduce clutter and distractions, allowing the user to better focus and quickly navigate their phone,” the company said in a statement.

At the developer conference, Glen Murphy, director of Android UX at Google, announced that the company is working with Samsung to deliver support in the Android OS for the foldable phone form factor.  

“We will be building into the platform the APIs to ensure a seamless foldable experience supporting new capabilities,” Murphy said, “which will allow your application to handle multitasking as well as dealing with resolution changes as a user folds the device.”

A foldable phone could be boost productivity for enterprise users, said Bryan Ma, vice president of client devices research at IDC. But he wonders if the apps will follow to take advantage of the device’s display.

“My concern with foldables, though, is not just about cost and reliability, but more importantly, the applications,” Ma said. “I worry that it will take time for developers to write applications that dynamically adjust and take advantage of larger screen dimensions, especially when there could be a moving hardware target in the process. Usage models have yet to be established and that can take years.”

Also at the developer’s conference, it was revealed that the Samsung foldable phone's exterior screen will measure 4.5 inches with a resolution of 1,960 x 840. When unfolded, a 7.3-inch interior screen appears, with a resolution of 2,152 x 1,536 pixels. The phone is expected to be called the Galaxy F or X.

Some reports suggest the Samsung foldable phone will be priced at around $1,700, quite a bit higher than the current Samsung flagship phones.

“The breakthroughs we've made in display materials have been matched by breakthroughs in manufacturing,” Denison said. “As a result, we will be ready to start mass production in the coming months.”


TAGS: Mobility
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