Why hasn't Samsung released its foldable phone yet? It needs to be 4mm thin

If you are wondering why, after Samsung showcased its YOUM line of flexible OLED displays four years ago, it still hasn't released a bendy commercial device, a Korean publication sheds some light on the internal struggles of the quest to achieve the ultimate Gumby phone. Back at CES 2013, Samsung showed prototypes of devices made with flexible displays that looked very much like what we have now in its "edge" line of phones with curved panels, but as far as a fully bendable device goes... well, it just showed a screen that can flex while retaining the image.

Ever since, it has been churning out copious amounts of patents that are brimful with ideas how a bendable phone could unfold, and a few days ago there were rumors all over the Korean media that Samsung is prepping thousands of such prototypes for Q3, in order to showcase to carrier partners, and gauge their reaction. The foldable phone was then said to be prepped as a "luxurious ultra premium" device, so as to be further differentiated from the competition.

Not so fast, claim analysts and researchers that are in the know about the obstacles that Samsung faces. It turns out that the R&D department, which has been toying with foldable displays for a decade now, still hasn't figured out how to make a compelling device in mass quantities, and with the desired quality. In light of the Note 7 fiasco, there is even less desire for risky bets at Samsung now, tip the sources.

Samsung, for instance, wants to make the device very, very thin, so even when folded it wouldn't be thicker than 10mm, which is on the border of what one would call thin these days. Given that the folding crease can have a minimum radius of 3mm, this means that when unfurled, the device has to be 4mm thin. That is as slim as the thinnest phone out there, and Samsung still has to cram top-notch internals in there, if it is shooting for the ultra premium market. Then there is the issue with durability - tougher materials are harder to bend, and vice versa. Just one small example - the adhesive that manufacturers use to attach the screens to the chassis, has to be very, very flexible and durable so as not to give in after hundreds or thousands of bending actions, or a new approach will have to be developed for attaching, and so on. 

While we have no doubts in Samsung's engineering abilities, the insiders add that "demonstrating these display technologies for a one-time event is easy, but commercializing them is a totally different story," so we wouldn't hold our breath for a retail foldable phone to hit the shelves this year. We do want to be a fly on the wall in Samsung's labs when they are testing its various engineering verification stages, though, and hope to at least see a functional prototype this fall, as rumored.


source: Korea Herald

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24 Comments

1. BradyCrack

Posts: 835; Member since: Dec 29, 2015

Why? Because it's almost as gimmicky and useless as curved displays. This will be fun.

3. ibend

Posts: 6747; Member since: Sep 30, 2014

right, because bigger screen is a gimmick... just wait till you favorite company follow it, and you'll stop calling it gimmick..

4. BradyCrack

Posts: 835; Member since: Dec 29, 2015

How did you get to that assumption?! They look cool and thats all. It's just an excuse for a higher price tag.

10. Cat97

Posts: 1892; Member since: Mar 02, 2017

You can always choose to pay less for a fixed screen and everyone will be happy :)

14. medtxa

Posts: 1655; Member since: Jun 02, 2014

Do you really think people chose their smartphone for the sole reason of 'it works', aesthetic be damned.

22. kiko007

Posts: 7493; Member since: Feb 17, 2016

Considering iPhone sales....yes.

24. iamdoctorluv

Posts: 31; Member since: Jan 14, 2017

Yeah I remember when edge screen was a gimmick but look at it now... Every phone company following.

6. amasog

Posts: 552; Member since: Aug 22, 2013

I agree. But knowing gullible fandroids, they want gimmicks for bragging.

23. TerryTerius unregistered

Having a flexible screen that won't crack no matter how hard you drop it isn't exactly a gimmick. Which the main benefit.

9. Bankz

Posts: 2543; Member since: Apr 08, 2016

This will never make it out of the labs tbh. Cool in theory but s**t in reality. Sort of like the supposed htc ocean.

15. whqhdrbs

Posts: 36; Member since: Feb 12, 2017

Edge display being a gimmick or not, that's where phone industry will be, with Samsung and Apple having it , others have no other choice but to follow, as for the foldable phone, it would make perfect sense with Note line with stylus, with 7-8" display with S pen will make its way into the market, it's like tablet+phone, when holographic keyboard attached to it, it can potentially replace tablet and "books"....you can call it a gimmick but Samsung will continue to find a way and innovate and I like that

17. HomerS

Posts: 419; Member since: Sep 19, 2014

A phone which you can expend to a tablet is a gimmick? Are you .... ok deep breaths, deep breaths, ok i'm calm again.

18. Tabby_Tiger

Posts: 305; Member since: Jan 23, 2017

I think the goal is to eventually get a phone that unfolds into a tablet the size of an iPad Mini rather than just a bendable screen.

21. krystian

Posts: 423; Member since: Mar 16, 2016

The concept is to be able to create a tablet when needed. A true 2-in-1 hybrid. Absolutely not a gimmick. You don't have to buy a smart phone and a tablet and keep them as 2 separate devices. You have both at your disposable when the situation calls for it. If I'm in bed chatting away i'll be in phone mode but then I decide I want to watch a movie I go to tablet mode. If I need to make a powerpoint presentation i'll be in tablet mode. Being able to dock it and use with a big screen is really the ultimate computing device. A 3-in-1. Microsoft's 2-in-1's are selling. Even Apple and Google are heading in that direction. People don't want to keep buying multiple devices for something that the processor in their phone should handle. I should be able to browse the internet on my phone on a big 27" monitor without buying a PC for it? Why do I want to pay when my phone does it already? Dumb accessories and a central CPU are likely the future for mobility. PC's and more powerful laptops, etc will be reserved for specialized stuff like design/professional work/gaming.

2. ibend

Posts: 6747; Member since: Sep 30, 2014

"Samsung, for instance, wants to make the device very, very thin, so even when folded it wouldn't be thicker than 10mm" but why 10mm? did samsung ever actually mention this? just make it 15mm in thickest point and 6mm thick in each unfolded side and fill it with extra battery, lol... (back in nokia era, 20mm thick phone still perfectly fine, even some modern battery case is ticker than 20mm right now :-/)

5. BradyCrack

Posts: 835; Member since: Dec 29, 2015

I might be assuming things. Correct me if I'm wrong. Surely the point of foldable smartphones is for portability? Wouldn't a 15-20mm foldable smartphone completely contradict itself? Just a thought.

7. amasog

Posts: 552; Member since: Aug 22, 2013

Are non-foldable smartphones still not portable?

11. BradyCrack

Posts: 835; Member since: Dec 29, 2015

What do you mean? If a foldable "MOBILE" phone is 20mm thick doesnt it defeat the purpose?

12. BradyCrack

Posts: 835; Member since: Dec 29, 2015

Sorry replied to the wrong comment, response to 7

16. ibend

Posts: 6747; Member since: Sep 30, 2014

reply to #5 which one will fit better inside your pocket? - 5.5inch sized phone with 15mm thicknes, that can be unfolded to 7inch+ - non-foldable 7.inch screen with 7mm thicknes

8. WPX00

Posts: 511; Member since: Aug 15, 2015

Nokia phones were tiny No one wants a 20mm bulge the size of a 6 inch phone

13. NoAllegiance unregistered

"Samsung would have trouble producing this puppy in mass quantities" *cough Note 7 cough"

19. SupermanayrB

Posts: 1188; Member since: Mar 20, 2012

*cough Note 7 cough* *cough last year's joke cough*

20. trojan_horse

Posts: 5868; Member since: May 06, 2016

I'm personally not in a hurry to see this tech become consumer-ready, so I reckon Samsung should take all time and testing necessary to make it flawless upon release.

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