Samsung seems to be rushing the development of its foldable smartphone, but why?


With today's leaked photo of ZTE's foldable Axon M smartphone, a curious question sprung up in many people's minds: in a foldable smartphone, which fold direction is the better one, inwards or outwards? While the only two implementations of the idea we can think of —  the Sony Tablet P (which is phone-sized by today's standards, nevermind the name) and the Kyocera Echo — have used a design where the screens point to the inside when the device is closed, the Axon M does just the opposite.

And such a debate might not seem like that big of a deal right now, considering foldable smartphones are pretty much not a thing on the market, they will certainly become the talk of the town starting next year, when Samsung will release its own take on the idea (smart flip phones notwithstanding).

But unlike its competitors' offerings, Samsung's foldable smartphone will actually feature a single display, which itself will fold in half alongside the body of the device. This is no doubt a feat only achievable by the Korean giant, whose Samsung Display subsidiary is the largest mobile OLED panel manufacturer, to the point where even Apple, its largest competitor in the smartphone space, has to use its displays.

But the question above still stands: inwards or outwards? According to a new report from ETNews, it's actually the former —but the story isn't quite as simple as that.

According to sources, Samsung itself hasn't been entirely sure which direction to take its foldable display technology in: it initially started development with a fold-in design in mind 4 to 5 years ago, but then changed to an outward-facing design 1 to 2 years ago. However, reports indicate it has very recently switched back to its original idea, and it is speculated this is due to the inward-facing technology being considerably more mature.

Such flip-flopping is a particularly interesting phenomenon, as the sources say that outward-facing foldable panels were Samsung Display's highest priority up until last year. Combine this with the fact Samsung officially confirmed the existence of its foldable device just this month, which presumably came very soon after the decision to go back to the inward-facing solution, and things start to look like a result of a very rushed decision.

On the surface, it sure seems that Samsung is reacting to some potential threat — the inwards facing technology has reportedly been in a near-ready state for years. And since we imagine ZTE (which is mostly popular for its cheaper devices) isn't a particularly big threat to Samsung, there may be other, more major players also gearing up to release its own foldable device soon.

And while many would be quick to cry Apple, we've heard of no such rumors — all signs currently point towards iPhone X-inspired designs going forward. But there is one big-name smartphone rumored to have a foldable design of its own: Microsoft's mythical Surface Mobile. And while the question of whether Redmond's unicorn is finally nearing release is debatable, it is still the most credible candidate for Samsung's fear we've heard of so far.


Of course, Lenovo has been showcasing a foldable tablet two years in a row now, while rival LG holds some patents for the idea, but these both feel like long shots. Just like ZTE, Lenovo isn't nearly as popular in the high end (including Moto devices), while LG's patents mean next to nothing until they get applied in practice — something we haven't heard of yet.

In any case, we still have some time until we find out. Samsung itself says the technology still needs some kinks worked out, while ETNews' sources claim the company is aiming to achieve 3R foldability (meaning the radius of the fold curve is no larger than 3mm). Or in other words, don't expect to see the device in the early months of 2018 — in fact, some rumors say it may turn out to be the next phone in the Note series, which traditionally launches in late summer.

But given Samsung's recent track record, the thing will most probably leak in full well before its release, so we'll surely get more info as our calendars roll over to 2018.

source: ETNews via The Investor

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42 Comments

1. Cat97

Posts: 1880; Member since: Mar 02, 2017

I think a foldable smartphone is mostly a stupid idea at this time. Maybe in 10 years, if the technology allows it, then yes, but to be appealing, a phone must be reasonably thin and must have symmetry, a foldable design ruins both.

2. cmdacos

Posts: 4179; Member since: Nov 01, 2016

So you've seen Samsung's version then?

10. drunkenjay

Posts: 1661; Member since: Feb 11, 2013

that's what people said about the bezels.

17. bucky

Posts: 3781; Member since: Sep 30, 2009

and its still silly. Just another reason for them to charge $1000+ now. Change nothing else, reduce bezels, people go crazy.

30. ShaikhJGI

Posts: 359; Member since: Jan 10, 2014

Exactly +1, even that's what people said about Note 1 back in 2011 when it was released. But see today it is 'Adam' of all phablets and still unbeaten. It is always good to pioneer something which will become a breakthrough later on few years down the line.

3. thetruthhasbeenspoken

Posts: 83; Member since: May 02, 2017

Because Samsung actually isn't afraid of innovation unlike some companies. They were one of the first to introduce large smartphones like the note and most followed. Innovators aren't afraid of trying to push the boundaries even if they might fail.

6. nctx77

Posts: 2540; Member since: Sep 03, 2013

Making a phone larger is not innovation my friend lol!

8. thetruthhasbeenspoken

Posts: 83; Member since: May 02, 2017

It was a different phone at that time. A niche device. Like it or not, the Note pushed boundaries.

13. toukale

Posts: 625; Member since: Jun 10, 2015

If you want to play that game, that honor should be reserved for Dell, not Samsung.

18. Podrick

Posts: 1285; Member since: Aug 19, 2015

Would you say the same about LG Prada?

20. Klinton

Posts: 1408; Member since: Oct 24, 2016

Note is not only larger phone, 'my friend' Note as hardware and software was a revolution. And gain more and more base. Still no one OEM can reproduce Note(without to pay huge to Samsung for the innovation.

27. HansP

Posts: 542; Member since: Oct 16, 2011

The Galaxy Note changed everything. They made iPads and tables obsolete. Yet, everybody blasted Samsung for trying to sell a large screen phone as people apparently looked like idiots making calls on them. Samsung is almost the only company doing innovation right these days.

35. uncle_gadget

Posts: 1050; Member since: Sep 20, 2017

Actually it is. Innovation is defined as: a new method, idea or product. The Note was a new idea in many respects. No the use of a pen was not new. But size was new. It does require innovation to make a phone bigger. You just don't wake up and say, I'm gonna make something big and not innate what is required to do so. What would happen to a house if you only built it 50 stories high and didn't innovate for structural integrity? Apple's iPhone 6 Plus is proof that innovation is required to make something bigger. If you don't it will crumble and fail. I think you are butthurt because Samsung a company that actually makes stuff, truly innovates and Apple simply grabs a shopping cart and buys from the best. You're just an uneducated Apple fan.

22. Settings

Posts: 2943; Member since: Jul 02, 2014

It's not always just who goes first. But in this era, OEMs tend to do is "You go first, we will follow then improve". Not just Samsung but all of them. They want to see if this kind of feature will click on the consumer. It saves them time, money and effort. Most of them has foldable designs already, they just wait for someone courageous to test the water for them. In short, It's not the one who does it first, what matters is the one who does it better.

29. Klinton

Posts: 1408; Member since: Oct 24, 2016

'OEMs tend to do is "You go first, we will follow then improve"...' I'm waiting for years some OEM to make Note-like device and imrove it. ROTFL See #20

32. Settings

Posts: 2943; Member since: Jul 02, 2014

It's a niche product. No one follows niche products. It's just a phone with an accessory stylus.

36. uncle_gadget

Posts: 1050; Member since: Sep 20, 2017

False. It does matter who goes first. The reality is, anything that comes first, isn't always the best option. Someone has to do it first and then other improve on the product. The first airplane surely wasn't perfect. One, it only could carry 1 or 2 people by design. You have to have the one first, to work out the issues and problems and as time goes by, as manufacturing of parts improve, once money is thrown at it for engineering, then over time you get a refined product. Look at planes now compared to what the Wright brother flew. Again that is where people like you are so shortsighted. It isn't about who is first or last right or wrong. What matter sis, someone willing to take the chance to be first, to get the idea into a working concept and allow others who have specific engineering skills to provide feedback on how to make it better. To simply takes a first, in order for it to get right over time. No first run product from any OEM was veer perfect on the first try.

40. Settings

Posts: 2943; Member since: Jul 02, 2014

If given one choice, what would you pick? The first Galaxy S or the Galaxy S2? Simple, you would pick the better phone. We always pick the better phone. Who goes first is just for recognition, patents etc, in the end if someone does it better it's safe to say the better would be picked.

4. PhoneInQuestion

Posts: 496; Member since: Aug 20, 2017

It's going to be proof of concept like every other unique smartphone feature before it becomes mainstream (e.g. the original note edge, which is still a solid phone btw).

15. PhoneInQuestion

Posts: 496; Member since: Aug 20, 2017

Speaking of rushed a thousand dollar smartphone doesn't have a fingeprint scanner, I'll keep beating this point until it's mush honestly, because it's never quite applesauce enough to point out how BS one decision is even if they have a functional product.

5. medtxa

Posts: 1655; Member since: Jun 02, 2014

outward is preferable but the problem is the screen is not glass just plastic that scratch easily.

7. samgsam

Posts: 148; Member since: Mar 24, 2017

Rushing the development just like Apple did with iPhone X?

11. maherk

Posts: 6830; Member since: Feb 10, 2012

Or rushing it like PA kept telling us about the Note 8 and how Samsung is panicking because of the iPhone and that it will be released by the end of July or early August, which wasn't the case.

28. HansP

Posts: 542; Member since: Oct 16, 2011

Yeah, the anti-Samsung rhetoric on here is saddening. They just can't stand that those Koreans are pushing innovation these days.

37. uncle_gadget

Posts: 1050; Member since: Sep 20, 2017

Or Asian in general!

9. Landon

Posts: 1245; Member since: May 07, 2015

Battery technology will have to improve drastically in order to keep the device thin yet provide a days worth of battery. That being said, I hope the battery longevity goal for companies increases...and hopefully that's sooner than later.

12. Panzer

Posts: 282; Member since: May 13, 2016

A foldable display is not quite as innovative as say a large notch in your screen and face id which they can't get enough components for production of a phone. But the writers of PA are pontificating how Samsung is rushing yet another product.

14. YeahYeah

Posts: 250; Member since: Mar 16, 2016

if Samsung try to do something is rushing.. Did you ask why iphone rushed they're ugly iphone x and failed face ID.. nope you didn't. Samsung been working on the foldable phones for years. So i wouldn't call it rushing. It is called innovation and way ahead of the competation. Plus they manufacture OLED displays....

16. Tipus

Posts: 865; Member since: Sep 30, 2016

iPA is rushing their stupid articles

41. MrShazam

Posts: 987; Member since: Jun 22, 2017

Truer words have never been spoken.

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