SMART­PHONE MAK­ERS B ET ON FOLDAB LE SCREENS

The Denver Post - - BUSINESS -

FRAN­CISCO» The smart­phone SAN in­dus­try has been search­ing for a break­through to re­vive a mar­ket mired in an in­no­va­tion lull and a sales slump. There’s now a po­ten­tial cat­a­lyst on the hori­zon.

Sam­sung and sev­eral ri­vals are pre­par­ing to roll out new re­designed de­vices with flex­i­ble screens that can be folded in half with­out break­ing. That feat could make the de­vices more ver­sa­tile for work and plea­sure, by in­creas­ing screen space to the size of a mini-tablet and fold like a wal­let so they can re­vert to the size of reg­u­lar phones.

“Every­one has been think­ing about the same ques­tion: ‘What’s next? Is there noth­ing more from a smart­phone?’ ” said Bill Liu, CEO of Roy­ole Corp., a small Sil­i­con Val­ley com­pany that un­veiled a fold­able-screen phone last week in China, where it will go on sale next month.

The con­cept of fold­able-screen phones is about to get much broader ex­po­sure now that Sam­sung ap­pears fi­nally ready to re­lease one. In an in­di­ca­tion of how dif­fi­cult it is to make a flex­i­ble screen that’s also durable, Sam­sung first an­nounced its plans to build a fold­ing-screen phone five years ago. It wasn’t un­til Wed­nes­day, though, that Sam­sung fi­nally pro­vided a glimpse at what it’s been work­ing on.

“We have been liv­ing in a world where the size of a screen could only be as large as the de­vice it­self,” said Justin Deni­son, Sam­sung’s se­nior vice pres­i­dent of mo­bile prod­uct mar­ket­ing. “We have just en­tered a new di­men­sion.”

Ex­cept for a fleet­ing look at a de­vice he held in a hand, Deni­son pro­vided scant in­for­ma­tion about the phone. Sam­sung says it will be ready to hit the mar­ket next year.

It’s not even clear whether flex­i­ble-screen phones will have mass ap­peal, es­pe­cially when the bendy de­vices are ex­pected to cost more than $1,000. Roy­ole, for in­stance, ex­pects to sell its fold­able-screen phone — the FlexPai — for $1,300 to $1,500 once it comes to the U.S. — some­thing that won’t hap­pen un­til next year, at the ear­li­est.

The Associated Press

Roy­ole’s FlexPai smart­phone, fea­tur­ing a flex­i­ble screen, is dis­played Mon­day in San Fran­cisco.

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