It has been reported that Samsung will release a flexible smartphone that unfolds into a seven-inch tablet by the end of 2017.

The Korea Herald has claimed that a source said that Samsung was planning to release the device in quarter three of this year. The newspaper quoted the source as saying: “Samsung is expected to roll out more than 100,000 units of fold-out devices in the third quarter.”

However, the newspaper also said that “multiple sources” claimed that Samsung has not made an official decision about whether to release the phones this year “because of marketability and profitability issues”.

According to the Korea Herald, Samsung had initially focused on developing a fold-in phone, which would have tucked the screen inside when it was folded. However, this concept was abandoned, with the firm deciding that users would be inconvenienced by having to unfold their phones each time they wanted to use them.

Folding smartphones could give users more portable devices since they would be smaller and therefore easier to slip into pockets. It presents design challenges, though, and Samsung will have to overcome these to get to the top of the folding smartphone market.

Samsung has been expressing its interest in folding phones for a few years and, in 2015, filed a patent that showed design concepts for these devices as well as phones that could be rolled up like a scroll. This could give them the edge in a saturated smartphone market.

If Samsung does choose to release the folding phone, it is expected to happen after the launch of the Galaxy S8, which is predicted to be released in mid-April.

Samsung is not the only manufacturer set to launch a folding phone this year. According to reports, LG is doing the same. The competition could see further development of the concept, which could go some way towards standardising the folding phone.

There are concerns about whether a folding display will necessitate any modifications to current operating systems. SlashGear has said: “Hardware is also just one part of the puzzle, albeit the biggest and hardest to address. Software will also be a concern and, again, depending on the form of the device, Samsung may or may not already have a solution readily available.”

However, they went on to add: “Regardless, if Samsung is able to pull off an Android-based user experience for this kind of device, few will probably complain if it modifies the Android interface too much.”

Whether the reports prove to be accurate and turn folding phones into more than just a concept remains to be seen.

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