Folding Smartphone Screens Could Be Gamechanger

John Lister's picture

Samsung looks set to release a phone with a giant foldable screen. But rumors of the price are varying wildly.

Reports suggest that the phone will fold out a little like a book. When open, the screen will be more than seven inches across, meaning it resembles a small tablet computer. When folded, the device will be the size of an ordinary smartphone and, although a little thicker than most phones, should fit easily in a pocket.

The idea is that the design would dramatically change what's viable with a phone. For example, working on document editing would be much more bearable for the user. It could also mean watching videos on the move was more pleasurable. In theory it could mean a phone becomes an alternative to a tablet rather than a complementary product.

Hinge Would Be Invisible

Different companies have taken different approaches when developing folding screens. Some use an extremely thin display screen that is so flexible it can even roll up. In Samsung's case, it appears the approach will be to effectively have two screens that are similar to current smartphones, with a fold along an extremely narrow hinge.

The idea would be that when folded flat, the two screens would line-up precisely. The phone would then generate and split the image such that there was no visible divide.

Samsung is expected to announce the phone at next spring's Mobile World Congress, the major event in the smartphone industry calendar. The leaked details are so early because there's such a big lead time in sourcing components to make the screens. (Source: phonearena.com)

Eye watering Price Rumored

Right now it appears the phone will launch in a relatively basic version with a limited production run early next year. If that gets a good reception and doesn't throw up any problems, the technology could be used for the 2019 edition of the Galaxy phone. That's Samsung's flagship phone and is often cited as the Android equivalent of having the latest iPhone.

That schedule may explain conflicting reports that put the phone as costing either $600 or $1,850. It's also possible the latter price is more of an estimate based on the cost of the components. In reality the price could be heavily subsidized by cellphone service carriers as a way to win customers. (Source: bgr.com)

What's Your Opinion?

Is a foldable screen a worthwhile development or a gimmick? If you had a phone with a 7 inch display, would it change what other gadgets you owned? Are the suggested prices realistic if this is going to be more than a niche luxury product?

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Comments

Dennis Faas's picture

Smartphones and tablets in my opinion will always be consumption devices, meaning that they are meant for reading and playing games (for example) - but not for inputting large amounts of data if you worked at an accounting firm. I don't think that will change any time soon unless they are able to make a foldable keyboard to go with that giant foldable screen. Even so it won't be very comfortable to use and prone to error and hand cramping.

I can see a lot of users wanting bigger screens especially for video playback, but if you're powering two screens instead of one then that's going to kill the battery even more. So that begs the question - how much battery life are you going to get on such a device? The bigger the battery the more weight it will carry as well. I am not sure I would want anything heavier than I have with my Samsung S6 Edge.

That said, I'm sure as batteries and processors improve in the future, the foldable screen will certainly become more mainstream. Right now I'm lucky to get 24 hours of battery life out of my phone with only one screen and only a handful of apps with moderate usage.

doulosg's picture

What if the two screens are essentially independent? Options would include extending the display across both, which is what you seem to expect. But could two different apps be displayed simultaneously? And what if one of those is the keyboard app?! And perhaps each screen could be turned off independently to save power. I like all the possibilities this would offer - as you say, a game changer!

scowei's picture

Hm. I like my current Motorola Moto Z2 Force because, among other things, it has the mods you can snap on the back, including a battery pack. So, snapping a pack on could help with the battery usage...but you'd have to carry a pack.

I totally agree that serious work gets done on things besides phones and tablet. So I don't think I'd need to larger screen option available all the time. But I could see taking a thin, foldable snap-on screen along with me when I travel in order to watch movies or make Skyping more engaging.

Rusty's picture

This definitely poses some interesting and marketable possibilities. The only drawback as far as I am concerned is that it will have an Android instead of iOS operating system. I have tried both and there is absolutely no comparison, in my opinion. Otherwise, it truly could be a game changer for me. More and more, I find myself using my wide screen phone instead of a computer and I know I am far from alone.

dan_2160's picture

You cannot imagine how much those of us in the bifocal generation -- nearly everybody over 40 -- would appreciate a foldable large screen on a cell phone. It might actually have fonts large enough to read and -- just as important -- a keyboard you can easily use. This design could be revolutionary.

plamonica_3840's picture

I have been seeing folding or unrollable screen POC devices for many years. I have been watching the joining of technologies for quite some time, this is the next logical step. A smartphone is smart enough now to be used to take notes in a meeting., in class or just to take a note. Showing someone that video you took of your cat on a 7" screen or a 14" screen, you tell me. Just this week I was at a meeting taking notes on a smart phone while four others hauled out their 18" laptops and scrambled to plug them in after an hour or so. I have even given presentations from a smart phone, I think more would also if they could have a larger built in screen to use while setting up. PCs are getting smaller (http://www.kangaroo.cc/kangaroo-mobile-desktop-pro/) add a foldable screen to that little PC? Sure. When 5G hits and Mobiles move to IP what then will be the difference between a PC and a Mobile?

DISCLOSURE: There are 23 Windows phoned still in use, I own 2 of them so you may not want to be taking advice from me.