Sam­sung gives first glimpse of fold­able phone

Business World - - World Business -

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

The South Korean tech com­pany needs to get the fold­able phone right to re­verse steep de­clines in profit for its mo­bile di­vi­sion and re­store some of the ca­chet its brand has lost to Ap­ple, Inc. Fold­able phones prom­ise the screen of a small tablet in a pock­et­sized de­vice.

Justin Deni­son, a se­nior vi­cepres­i­dent 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 Mr. 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 Ms. 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 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. —


JUSTIN DENI­SON, Sam­sung Elec­tron­ics se­nior vice-pres­i­dent of mo­bile prod­uct mar­ket­ing, speaks dur­ing the un­veil­ing of Sam­sung’s new fold­able screen smart phone, dur­ing the Sam­sung De­vel­op­ers Con­fer­ence in San Fran­cisco, Cal­i­for­nia, US, Nov. 7.

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