Samsung’s first foldable phone is “right around the corner” according to Gregory Lee, President and CEO of Samsung Telecommunications America.
Speaking at the Future:Mobile conference, and reported by Recode, Lee said that the new bendable phones are incoming. Explaining the delay behind getting them to market he continued, “it just has been very difficult to manufacture at a reasonable cost”.
Lee’s comments are, perhaps, unsurprising considering how many leaks have surfaced about Samsung’s foldable tech. How open the company has been about its plans. And, the very real threat from new competitors who could beat them to market, including Lenovo, LG and Chinese startup Moxi Group.
Lenovo’s unveiling of its concept devices on Thursday will be of particular concern to Samsung. The two devices, a slim smartphone that bends around your wrist like a smartphone, and a tablet that folds in half, aren’t dissimilar to some recent Samsung patents. They’re also working prototypes that Lenovo was happy to let the press play with. Although they’re concept devices, which means they never be released, this is clearly the Chinese manufacturer flexing its muscles and announcing its place in the upcoming foldable-phone war.
Lenovo’s tech is also clearly at an advanced stage. Obviously there are reasons why Lenovo isn’t launching either device – most likely to do with the cost of manufacturing this type of tech on a large scale and other technical challenges – but they exist to a degree that its happy to show them off. Whereas Samsung hasn’t boldly demoed a foldable phone since CES 2013 (although it did show off its latest rollable display earlier this year).
Lee’s comments appear to confirm the multiple reports that point towards 2017 being the year Samsung officially launches its first bendable phone. The question is: will the flexible phone be Samsung’s main flagship? Such a move would be a huge gamble, given that the tech is untested in the market and the apparent high cost of manufacturing at scale, as Lee commented. My guess is that a bendable phone will be launched as alternative option alongside a more standard Galaxy S8. We’ll know more at Mobile World Congress 2017.