Samsung Plans to Launch a Flip Phone-Style Device With 6.7-inch Bendable Display Early Next Year

Undeterred by its recent Galaxy Fold un-launch, Samsung is apparently set to unveil a luxury smartphone early next year that can be folded down into a compact-sized square, according to a new report from Bloomberg.

Samsung's Galaxy Fold hasn't even been released yet
The South Korean smartphone giant is working on a device with a 6.7-inch inner display that shrinks to a pocketable square when it's folded inward like a clamshell, according to people familiar with the product's development.
The smartphone giant is said to be collaborating with American designer Thom Browne on the upcoming phone, with the aim of "appealing to a broader range of consumers that includes those more interested in fashion, status and luxury than a device's tech specs." At the same time, the device will reportedly feature cutting-edge display technology and offer the nostalgic appeal of rejuvenating the flip-phone form factor.

The foldable phone is said to include a hole-punch selfie camera at the top of the inner display, while on the outside it will have two cameras that face rearwards when the phone is open and become front-facing when the device is flipped closed.

According to the paper's sources, Samsung aims to make its second bendable smartphone more affordable and thinner than this year's Galaxy Fold, although the launch of the successor device "may... hinge on how well the Fold performs after its imminent launch."

On that note, Samsung is said to have completed its redesign of the Galaxy Fold to resolve the multiple display failures that led to its delay. The South Korean company originally planned to roll out its $1,980 foldable phone on April 26, but was forced to delay the launch after several units sent out to reviewers broke during testing.

All of the issues were related to the device's screen, which was vulnerable to debris ingress. The new version of the Galaxy Fold, featuring several design and construction improvements, is now set to launch in September in select markets, with specific launch details to be shared as a launch approaches.

There have been some suggestions that Apple is exploring folding screen technology, but right now there are no rumors indicating Apple plans to actually release a foldable smartphone in the near future.


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UBS Predicts Foldable iPhone or iPad by 2021, But Skepticism Abounds

Apple will likely launch a foldable device within the next two years, analysts at investment bank UBS predict. In a research note obtained by CNBC, the analysts said the device is more likely to be an iPad than an iPhone, and they also believe it is more likely to launch in 2021 than 2020.


Emphasis should be placed on "predict," as this is likely just speculation, and proven sources like Ming-Chi Kuo or Mark Gurman have yet to report that Apple is actively developing a foldable iPhone or iPad.

That's not the only reason to be skeptical. As noted by VentureBeat's Jeremy Horwitz, folding display technology is still in its infancy, as evidenced by the troubled launch of Samsung's Galaxy Fold, which experienced serious display issues that led the device to be postponed for several months.

Apple also has a reputation for releasing thin, sleek devices, and early folding smartphones are anything but that. That doesn't mean Apple can't do it better, but 2020 or 2021 could be quite an ambitious timeframe for a foldable iPhone or iPad that upholds the company's strict industrial design standards.

Rumors of a foldable iPhone have popped up on numerous occasions over the past few years. In both 2016 and 2017, for example, it was reported that Apple was working with LG on a foldable iPhone. And in 2018, Bank of America analyst Wamsi Mohan predicted that a foldable iPhone will launch in 2020.

Apple has filed several patents for a folding iPhone, so it has at least explored the idea, but whether it happens any time soon remains up for debate.


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Samsung Still Has No Idea When the Galaxy Fold Will Launch

Samsung on Tuesday acknowledged that it is unable to provide a firm release date for its Galaxy Fold smartphone and has contacted pre-order customers in the United States to apologize for the delay (via Reuters).

"If we do not hear from you and we have not shipped by May 31st, your order will be canceled automatically," the South Korean tech giant's U.S. subsidiary told Galaxy Fold pre-order customers in an email late on Monday, which was confirmed by a Samsung spokeswoman.
In a statement given to Reuters, Samsung said that U.S. regulations required the company to notify customers that pre-orders would be canceled if the product did not ship by May 31.

The South Korean company originally planned to roll out its $1,980 foldable phone on April 26, but was forced to delay the launch after several units sent out to reviewers broke during testing.

After recalling the review units, Samsung contacted pre-order customers on April 22, saying it would announce a new release date "in the coming weeks" and would take measures to strengthen the display protection. The device's screen was shown to be vulnerable to debris ingress, thanks to an iFixit teardown that was later removed at Samsung's request.

The development is the latest in a series of embarrassing events for Samsung, whose hybrid tablet/smartphone was supposed to demonstrate the company leading innovation in the mobile space. Still, at least the device in its current state won't get into the hands of thousands of customers around the world, which would likely have turned into a larger problem.

Samsung has said it plans to make at least 1 million Galaxy Fold handsets in the first year of production, compared to the total 300 million phones it produces annually on average. It originally closed pre-orders for the device early because of "high demand."


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Apple Supplier Corning Working on Glass Display Solution for Foldable Phones

With foldable smartphones from the likes of Samsung and Huawei now out in the open, speculation has been piqued over whether Apple will follow suit. We know the company has explored ideas related to foldable phones in patent applications, but Apple is unlikely to release a foldable iPhone unless it can meet strict quality standards, and judging by the bulky designs and expensive price tags of early foldable devices, that could still be some ways off.

Huawei Mate X

One innovation in particular that Apple could be holding out for is foldable glass. Early folding phone manufacturers have been relying on plastic polymers to make their flexible displays, but unlike glass, plastic creases and crinkles over time. The material is also less robust and easier to scratch, which is why the deviation from traditional glass smartphone panels is all the more noticeable.

Corning, the makers of Gorilla Glass, is known to be actively developing a foldable glass solution that could one day find its way into a future foldable iPhone. Corning is a long-time Apple supplier, and its Gorilla Glass products have been used in the iPhone and the iPad for several years, which makes its current work on glass that's 0.1mm thick and can bend to a 5mm radius all the more interesting.
"In a glass solution, you're really challenging the laws of physics, in that to get a very tight bend radius you want to go thinner and thinner, but you also have to be able to survive a drop event and resist damage," Corning general manager John Bayne recently told Wired.

"The back of the problem we're trying to break, the technical challenge, is, can you keep those tight 3- to 5-millimeter bend radii and also increase the damage resistance of the glass. That's the trajectory we're on."
According to Wired, Corning is combining its experience with Willow Glass, which can roll up like a sheet of paper, and Gorilla Glass, which gets its strength from an ion-exchange process. Unfortunately, that process involves dipping glass into a molten salt solution, and salt corrodes the transistors found in display applications, which makes Willow Glass unsuitable for phones. Corning's work is currently focused on overcoming this challenge.
"We have glasses we've sampled to customers, and they're functional, but they're not quite meeting all the requirements," Bayne says. "People either want better performance against a drop event or a tighter bend radius. We can give them one or the other; the key is to give them both."
Bayne thinks the company's foldable glass will be ready for the mainstream in a couple of years. With a bit of luck, the $200 million that Apple granted Corning out of its $1 billion Advanced Manufacturing Fund will help the U.S. company achieve that goal.


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Samsung Offers to Supply Foldable Displays to Apple and Google

In the wake of the launch of the Galaxy Fold, Samsung has begun shopping around its foldable display technology to other companies. ETNews (Translate) reports that they have specifically provided samples to Apple and Google:
According to the industry on the 27th, Samsung Display made a set of foldable display and delivered it to Apple. This set, which is actually powered like a smartphone, has a 7.2-inch size foldable panel. 7.2 inches is 0.1 inches smaller than the Samsung Folder 'Galaxy Fold'.

Samsung has historically been both supplier and competitor to Apple and other smartphone manufacturers and provides the OLED screens for Apple's top of the line iPhones. According to the report, Samsung doesn't intend to keep foldable technology to itself and is instead working to dominate as a supplier for the technology. Samsung is said to be able to produced about 2.4 million units a year at this time but is considering moving up to 10 million units a year depending on demand.

Apple has been known to be working on foldable display technology for years with patents on the implementation of similar technology. While there are ongoing rumors that Apple has been testing such technologies in the lab, Apple has not been speculated to implement the technology until 2020 at the earliest.


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Foldable iPhones Could Have Self-Heating Displays to Avoid Damage in Cold Weather

The foldable smartphone era is fully upon us with the recent introductions of the Samsung Galaxy Fold and Huawei Mate X, and while it remains unclear if Apple will follow suit, the company has at least explored ideas related to foldable smartphones in patent applications over the past few years.

Huawei Mate X

In a patent application published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office today, titled "Electronic Devices With Flexible Displays," Apple explains that foldable smartphone displays could be prone to damage when bent in cold temperatures, and describes various heating methods to mitigate the issue.

For example, Apple says the portion of the display that bends could be heated by lighting up the pixels in that area of the screen. Alternatively, a "heating element or other heating structure" could be used, although Apple wasn't specific.

Apple's illustration of a folding device, along with an expanded view showing the bendable area of the display being heated

The patent application, highlighted by AppleInsider, notes that the foldable smartphone could have a magnetic latching mechanism that would prevent the device from being folded or unfolded in very cold temperatures to avoid damage to the display. This would be in environments "significantly below room temperature."

Apple files numerous patent applications every week, of course, and many of the inventions do not see the light of day. Patents are also very detailed, encompassing many possible ideas, even ones that Apple might not have any plans to advance. So, the exact implementation if any remains to be seen.

While unique, early foldable smartphones from Samsung and Huawei are far from perfect, with bulky designs and expensive price tags. Apple is unlikely to release a foldable iPhone unless it can meet the company's strict quality standards.

Last year, Bank of America analyst Wamsi Mohan predicted that Apple is working on a foldable iPhone for release in 2020, while an earlier Korean report said Apple was developing a foldable iPhone alongside LG. However, it's still not entirely clear if Apple will ever proceed with those plans.


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