Samsung unveils its first new foldable phone

Samsung unveils its first new foldable phone

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CALIFORNIA: Samsung Electronics Co Ltd unveiled its much-anticipated foldable phone in San Francisco on Wednesday, urging Android developers to start writing apps for it.

That’s what we were all thinking as Samsung’s Justin Denison whipped out a prototype folding smartphone. A phone that can open up to become a 7.3-inch tablet would be pretty handy when out and about

This time, however, Samsung is entering water that has been sailed in by equally-prestigious tech companies, and none did very well. Let’s forget Sony’s Tablet P, a clamshell tablet that sandwiched two 5.5-inch 1,024 x 480 LCDs between the hinge, and move on to more recent efforts.

Foldable phones promise the screen of a small tablet in a pocket-sized device.

The device was shown for the first time Wednesday during a Samsung developer’s conference in San Francisco, California.

The South Korea-based technology company first announced plans to build a fully foldable phone five years ago.

Justin Denison, a senior vice president of mobile product marketing, showed a prototype with a screen he said measured 7.3 inches (18.5 cm) diagonally.

Folded in two it appeared to resemble a thick phone, but Samsung did not give media or developers a chance to touch or see the device up close.

Dave Burke, vice president of engineering for Google’s Android software platform, told a Google conference in California that Samsung planned to introduce a new Android-based device early next year.

“We expect to see foldable products from several Android manufacturers,” he said.

Google’s head of Android UX, Glen Murphy, was also on stage with Samsung and said Google would work with the developer community to bring more features to the phone.

Samsung said it would be ready for mass production in the coming months.

Developer Joshua Clark, who was at the conference, said Samsung needs to sell the technology to its competitors for the product to be widely adopted.

“I really think it only takes two companies, and then all of the sudden it will catch on,” said Clark. “And the fact that Google was on stage, that says a lot. For developers to be able to integrate it with all their apps, that gives me a lot of confidence.”

Analyst Bob O’Donnell with Technalysis Research said that while the bendable screen provided a wow factor, shoppers may not like the thickness of the folded phone or its price tag.

“They’ll have to prove that it’s more than just a gimmick,” said O’Donnell. “But it’s smart to open it up to developers early to do different types of experiences.”

Maribel Lopez, an analyst at Lopez Research, said that the product would likely be relatively expensive in the near term.

“We’re talking about brand new materials that have been made for this and also a new manufacturing process,” said Lopez.

Samsung is among a handful of developers working on foldable phones.

China’s Huawei Technologies Co Ltd has said it is planning to launch a 5G smartphone with a foldable screen in mid-2019.

Samsung’s creation is far more advanced, and the fact that it’s courting developers is a sign that it’s well aware of the work it needs to do. It’s still far too early to praise or condemn Samsung’s initial foray into the foldable hybrid market, but it is exciting. After all, this is one of the world’s biggest device manufacturers showing off a bold new step in mobile computing.

Samsung and Huawei, however, have been beaten to the market by Royole, a Chinese display making start-up, which last week unveiled a foldable Android phone with a 7.8-inch screen, priced from around $1,300. Royole said it would start filling orders in late December.

 

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