Samsung unveils foldable smartphone display

Image credit: Samsung

Samsung has finally unveiled its first foldable smartphone display that will let users switch between a phone and tablet-sized display, with the company looking to put the device into production in the coming months.

The Samsung Developer Conference 2018 event in San Francisco marked the first official appearance of the long-rumoured prototype Infinity Flex device, which Samsung has been hinting at for more than five years. It features a 7.3-inch screen when opened and promises to fit comfortably into a jacket pocket when folded.

While the company has been competing with Chinese from Huawei to be the first smartphone maker to bring a foldable device to market, both firms were upstaged last week by little-known startup Royole, which demonstrated its own flexible phone display.

Samsung's efforts may be expected to be much more polished than Royole's, though the firm was cagey about many of the details of what we can expect when it comes to market.

The final look of the device was obscured by a case at the event, while Samsung has also not disclosed how it will brand the gadget. However, it did confirm the handset will use Android and be capable of running three apps at once.

Unlike the Royole device, the Infinity Flex display lies completely flat when closed, though this does make it notably thicker than standard smartphones,and results in noticeable breaks in the bezel. However, as the device is still a prototype, there is plenty of time for Samsung to improve the form factor before it reaches consumers.

Some commentators have suggested the introduction of a flexible phone could spark greater interest in Samsung devices, which could help reverse declining sales. Figures from IDC indicate shipments of its devices fell by 13.4 per cent in the third quarter of 2018 compared with last year.

"Differentiation is super important. Samsung's smartphone sales are declining as it faces serious competition from Huawei and other Chinese brands," said analyst at the firm Marta Pinto. 

"If it can bring a new and really interesting device to the market it could be a chance to regain momentum and return to growth."