Under Shadows, Samsung Shows Off Its Foldable Phone
The Samsung foldable phone is real. After months and months of teasing the device, all while sharing very little detail about the thing, Samsung finally showed off a disguised version of the device under dimmed lights during its annual developer conference. In showing off the device, Justin Denison, Samsung’s senior vice president of mobile product marketing, explained that the screen technology is called Infinity Flex Display.
Unlike the previous take on a foldable device that we saw, Samsung’s phone resembles—at least from what we could see in the dimly-lit video feed—the old clamshell phones. The device has a front-facing display that looks like a typical smartphone you’d find on the market today. The device then opens up to expose a 7.3-inch tablet-sized display that was otherwise hidden inside the phone. And, according to Samsung, it has technology (called multi active window) that will allow that foldable display to act as two independent displays, essentially giving the user the ability to run up to three apps at the same time, presumably on the cover display, and side by side on the foldable display.
Samsung, Denison said, will begin mass production of the Infinity Flex Display in a matter of months, but he wouldn’t detail when we might start to see the technology integrated into actual consumer-ready devices. Given Samsung likes to announce their Galaxy phones around the time of Mobile World Congress in late February, it’d be a shocker to see anything happen by then. Perhaps next year though?
And while actually seeing the foldable display in action was a pretty important milestone for Samsung and the smartphone market in general, the most exciting news of the day actually came from Google itself, which announced that Android will natively support foldable devices (foldables?) in an effort to limit further fragmentation of the operating system. Google director of product management Sagar Kamdar recently said that the company is “working closely with our OEM partners to ensure we have a common API surface for developers.” One way they’re doing so is by pointing developers to an existing feature called screen opportunity, which is the same API that gets used to tell a device to alter the display when you rotate your phone, for example. “This new form factor is therefore simply adding new use cases to this existing pattern,” Kamdar said.
So, it’s nice to see that Google is planning for the coming wave of foldable devices by ensuring that their Android OS will be able to handle the various form factors and use cases for the devices. The question ultimately remains, though: will consumers find these devices to actually be worth the investment, or are they going to come off as too gimmicky? Time will tell.