Samsung unveils foldable phone as it tries to regain edge on Apple

Samsung

The Korean company pins hopes on the pocket-sized device that gives users a tablet-sized screen




Google executive Glen Murphy at the unveiling of Samsung’s new ‘Infinity Flex’ foldable phone.Photograph: Stephen Lam/Reuters

Samsung has unveiled its much-anticipated foldable phone and urged Android developers to start writing apps for the new device. The South Korean tech company needs to perfect the foldable phone to reverse steep declines in profit for its mobile division and restore some of the cachet its brand has lost to Apple. Foldable phones promise the screen of a small tablet in a pocket-sized device.

At the unveiling in San francisco, Justin Denison, a senior vice president of mobile product marketing, showed a prototype with a screen he said measured 18.5cm (7.3in) diagonally. Folded in two it appeared to resemble a thick phone, but Samsung did not give media or developers a chance to touch or see the device up close.


Samsung unveils foldable phone as it tries to regain edge on Apple

Samsung’s Justin Denison shows off the folding smartphone. Photograph: Eric Risberg/AP

Dave Burke, vice president of engineering for Google’s Android software platform, told a conference in California that Samsung planned to introduce a new Android-based device early next year.

“We expect to see foldable products from several Android manufacturers,” he said. Google’s head of Android UX, Glen Murphy, was also on stage with Samsung and said Google would work with the developer community to bring more features to the phone. Samsung said it would be ready for mass production in the coming months.

Joshua Clark, a developer who was at the conference, said Samsung needed to sell the technology to its competitors for the product to be widely adopted. “I really think it only takes two companies, and then all of the sudden it will catch on,” said Clark. “And the fact that Google was on stage, that says a lot. For developers to be able to integrate it with all their apps, that gives me a lot of confidence.”

Bob ODonnell, an analyst with Technalysis Research, said that while the bendable screen provided a wow factor, shoppers may not like the thickness of the folded phone or its price tag. “They’ll have to prove that it’s more than just a gimmick,” said O’Donnell. “But it’s smart to open it up to developers early to do different types of experiences.” Samsung is among a handful of developers working on foldable phones.

Huawei has said it is planning to launch a 5G smartphone with a foldable screen in mid-2019.

Samsung and Huawei, however, have been beaten to the market by Royole, a Chinese display making start-up, which last week unveiled a foldable Android phone with a bigger screen, priced from around £1,300.

Royole said it would start filling orders in late December.

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