Samsung bids to reboot stagnant mobile market with smartphone that folds in half
SAMSUNG has become the first major smartphone manufacturer to unveil a folding phone as it seeks to reboot a stagnant mobile market.
The Korean company, the world’s biggest mobile phone maker, said its bendy screen technology would usher in “a new generation of smartphones” as it unveiled a prototype handset at an event in San Francisco.
The device, the size of a tablet computer, features a large 7.3in screen and can fold in on itself, shutting like a book, to fit in a pocket. When folded in half, a second screen on the outside means it can operate like a smartphone.
Phone displays have become bigger each year as they are increasingly used for watching videos, reading and social media. However, bigger screens have meant a trade-off in portability that has frustrated some users.
Samsung did not give many details of the new phone, such as how much it will cost or when it plans to put it on sale, except to say that it will go into production “in the coming months”.
It sold an estimated 72.2m handsets in the third quarter of the year, but sales fell by 13.4pc year-on-year amid a declining market. The slowing pace of updates and rising prices has made consumers less willing to upgrade.
Samsung’s Justin Denison said the screen technology, which uses a compound of synthetic materials instead of glass, would be “the foundation for the smartphone of tomorrow”.
The phone will be able to run three apps at once – two on the bigger screen and a third on the smaller display, but Geoff Blaber, an analyst at CCS Insight, said folding phones were unlikely to catch on immediately.
“This will start as a niche device but has a deeply strategic longer-term role as Samsung seeks to differentiate in an increasingly saturated market,” he said.
“Success is dependent on apps and content that make use of the display and that will take time, investment and refinement.”
Justin Denison, Samsung Electronics senior vice-president of mobile product marketing, unveils the foldable smartphone