Samsung is set to release two smartphone models that can bend as soon as next year, Bloomberg reported. The phones will have foldable screens, and one model will bend like a “cosmetic compact,” according to “people familiar with the matter” that spoke to Bloomberg.
The futuristic sounding smartphones are reportedly undergoing testing in China, according to Sam Mobile, a tech blog dedicated to Samsung products. One of the models might have a “5-inch screen when used as a handset, that unfurls into a display that’s as large as 8 inches, similar to a tablet,” sources told Bloomberg.
Tipsters further disclosed that the smartphones, or at least one of the models, will have a micro SD card slot, non-removable battery and 3GB of RAM. Samsung is supposedly testing the screens with Snapdragon 620 and 820 processors, the same built into the Galaxy S7 phones.
“According to our sources, the device in question will act as a testbed for the Snapdragon 820 chipset. Whatever this device is, we are quite excited to see the company’s first device with a foldable display as it could very well change the course of the whole smartphone industry,” a Sam Mobile blogger wrote.
Foldable screens may not be an impossible achievement for a company that has pioneered display technology. Samsung was the first to release a smartphone with Super AMOLED display about six years ago. The Galaxy S6 Edge had a curved display, which was cutting-edge technology at the time.
“Using advanced display technology may help the company recapture customers from Apple and boost earnings that have slumped for the past two years,” Bloomberg speculated.
The bendable smartphones are also rumored to be equipped with organic light-emitting diodes, which will enable larger screens and better graphic quality. This ambitious project of Samsung is currently codenamed “Foldable Valley,” and the models will most likely be revealed at the Mobile World Congress set to take place in Barcelona in February next year. If Samsung releases the bendable phones early in 2017, the company will have a head start on Apple, which is likely to release the new iPhone with an OLED screen later that year.
“This product could be a game-changer if Samsung successfully comes up with a user interface suitable for bendable screens. Next year is a probable scenario. Their biggest obstacle was related to making transparent plastics and making them durable, which seems resolved by now,” Lee Seung Woo, an analyst at IBK Securities Co. in Seoul, told Bloomberg.
Samsung is not planning to make their popular Galaxy S phones with bendable screens, sources claimed. The company has not officially commented on any of the rumors regarding foldable smartphones. Samsung declined to comment for the Bloomberg article. The company currently has a patent for an electronic device that “simply folds in half when not in use,” Daily Mail reported.
Samsung recently unveiled a prototype for a rollable display at SID 2016 in San Francisco. The company displayed an exhibit of a 5.7-inch screen with OLED display furling up in “a very pocket-friendly form,” reported a Slash Gear blogger who attended the event.
“Opened out, it’s a 5.7-inch screen running at 1920 x 1080 Full HD resolution, for a total pixel density of 386 PPI. It’s just as bright and the colors just as vivid as we’ve come to expect from the company’s displays on production devices like the Galaxy S7 edge, too,” Slash Gear wrote.
“However its party trick is how small it gets. The screen rolls up into a small metal stick, roughly the diameter of an old canister of 35mm film, but longer. Samsung can do that because the panel is just 0.3 mm thick, and weighs 5g. It has a rolling radius of 10R, which basically means that it could be rolled into a tube with a 10mm radius,” the blog post explained.
Bendable phones are not entirely a new concept. A South Korean company called Suwon used to make videos with a phone that folded. A Chinese company called Moxi has also exhibited a similar phone, but with a black and white screen. None of these products have ever been commercially available, however.