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This is what we’ve been wait­ing for?

PCWorld (USA) - - Contents - BY MICHAEL SI­MON

Af­ter more than an hour of tir­ing Bixby an­nounce­ments, cur­sory Galaxy Home de­tails, and long-winded IOT speeches dur­ing the open­ing key­note to its de­vel­op­ers con­fer­ence, Sam­sung fi­nally showed us what we were all wait­ing for: its new fold­ing phone.

Ex­cept it wasn’t re­ally a phone at all. Sam­sung’s big in­no­va­tion is the In­fin­ity Flex dis­play, and we still don’t know much about what Sam­sung is go­ing to do with it. Se­nior vice pres­i­dent Justin Deni­son waxed poetic about an ad­vanced com­pos­ite poly­mer and re­duced thick­ness that paves the way for

rol­lable dis­plays, fold­able phones, and thin­ner hand­sets. Ex­cept he didn’t ac­tu­ally show us any of that.

The brief glimpse we got of the phone re­vealed a su­per thick hand­set with gi­ant bezels and an ob­vi­ous hinge. Pre­sum­ably we were look­ing at a dummy case that con­cealed the real prod­uct. At least I hope we were. Be­cause if not, it’s go­ing to be the phone that launched a thou­sand memes.

We don’t even re­ally know how or if it works. The 10-sec­ond glimpse we got of it didn’t show off any func­tion­al­ity, and Deni­son made sure to keep the UI and de­sign un­der wraps. Sam­sung even dimmed the lights on the stage so peo­ple couldn’t get a real clear look at it.

MORE QUES­TIONS THAN AN­SWERS

So what do we know? Not a whole lot. Sam­sung boasted that the In­fin­ity Flex dis­play rep­re­sents “a new mo­bile plat­form,” but the only thing we know for sure is that you can run three apps on it thanks to a new fea­ture called multi-ac­tive win­dow. Based on the demo, the three win­dows are in­ter­change­able, with one large box flanked by two stack­able smaller boxes.

We also of­fi­cially know that Google is on board. In a rare ap­pear­ance by the An­droid maker at a Sam­sung event, Google an­nounced that it will be of­fi­cially sup­port­ing fold­able dis­plays ( go.pc­world.com/advs), al­low­ing An­droid apps to run seam­lessly as the de­vice folds and bring­ing “screen con­ti­nu­ity.” That’s de­vel­oper speak for the API that lets apps dy­nam­i­cally ad­just to the var­i­ous An­droid dis­play sizes, but it’s usu­ally not seen in ac­tion on the fly. So it will def­i­nitely re­quire a new set of tools.

But we don’t re­ally know how that works ei­ther. Pre­sum­ably, if you’re work­ing in an app with the phone open, it will re­mem­ber your place when you close it and vice versa. But Sam­sung didn’t demon­strate that ei­ther. Based on the peek we got of the phone, how­ever, it seems as though it will fold in­ward like a book. That means there’s a smaller

dis­play on the out­side of the phone and a larger one on the in­side, though Sam­sung says the In­fin­ity Flex tech will al­low for both in­ward and out­ward phones.

IN THE FOLD

As far as the UI of the new phone goes, it will be re­lated to Sam­sung’s new de­sign lan­guage, ONEUI. Be­fore show­ing off the new phone, Sam­sung took a few min­utes to show off its new smart­phone in­ter­face, the third re­brand­ing in as many years, fol­low­ing Touch­wiz and the Sam­sung Ex­pe­ri­ence. ONEUI is a dra­matic change for Sam­sung’s Galaxy phones with a cleaner in­ter­face that pushes the con­trols to­ward the bot­tom of the screen and cre­ates a “con­tent area” at the top of the screen.

For ex­am­ple, in the Mes­sages app, your con­ver­sa­tions will start in the mid­dle of the screen so you don’t have to reach as high to re­spond to a new text. And pop-ups will also be pushed to the bot­tom of the screen for eas­ier ac­cess with one hand.

ONEUI will also in­clude a sys­temwide dark mode as well as a new color scheme to match the color of the de­vice. Sam­sung says it de­signed ONEUI to keep your focus on the task at hand and min­i­mize dis­trac­tions on the screen. It’s not en­tirely clear how any of ONEUI will re­late to the new fold­ing phone, but pre­sum­ably the new in­ter­face was de­signed with the flex­i­ble dis­play in mind.

CLOSE TO THE VEST

Back to what we don’t know. Among the ques­tions we still have about Sam­sung’s fold­ing phone:

• When it is com­ing out: Sam­sung said it’s ready to be­gin manufacturing In­fin­ity Flex dis­plays “in the com­ing months,” but it didn’t say whether they would be at­tached to phones.

• How big it is: Sam­sung didn’t dis­cuss the size of ei­ther the in­side dis­play or the

out­side one, though it cer­tainly looked like a small tablet when opened.

• If it will run reg­u­lar An­droid apps: Sam­sung talked in broad strokes about the fold­able UI, but we don’t re­ally know how it will work with the mil­lions of ex­ist­ing apps in the Play Store.

• If it will work in ei­ther ori­en­ta­tion: Sam­sung showed a por­trait-heavy UI, but it didn’t men­tion whether the phone has an ac­celerom­e­ter so it can be turned like a tablet.

• How much it costs: There was no men­tion of price dur­ing the dis­cus­sion of the phone.

• What it will be called: Ru­mors sug­gested that the new phone would be called the Galaxy F, but Sam­sung de­clined to name the de­vice it showed off.

And there are a bunch of other ques­tions too. What’s the bat­tery life? What’s the screen res­o­lu­tion? How much RAM is in­side it? What are the stor­age op­tions? Can you answer calls when it’s opened? Is there a head­phone jack? And on and on.

The only real specs about the dis­play were re­vealed at a de­vel­op­ers ses­sion af­ter the key­note. As re­ported by Cnet (go.pc­world.com/shtb), the front dis­play is 4.58 inches—in­cred­i­bly small for a 2018 phone—with a res­o­lu­tion of 1960x840 and a pixel den­sity of 420. The in­side dis­play is a great deal big­ger than any smart­phone on the mar­ket to­day, mea­sur­ing 7.3 inches with a 2152x1536 res­o­lu­tion and the same 420ppi. The closed dis­play would have a funky 21:9 ra­tio, while the in­side is a more stan­dard 4.2:3.

But even with a clearer pic­ture of the size, all Sam­sung re­ally proved at its de­vel­op­ers con­fer­ence was that the thing it’s been work­ing on for the past four years is ac­tu­ally a thing that’s go­ing to come out next year.

But whether that’s ac­tu­ally go­ing to be­come a phone you’re go­ing to want to buy re­mains to be seen.

If you blinked while Se­nior Vice Pres­i­dent Justin Deni­son showed off Sam­sung’s new fold­ing phone, then you missed it.

You can run three apps when the fold­ing screen is opened.

Sam­sung’s new fold­ing phone looks like a 2001 phone when closed.

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