Think the Samsung Edge display is cool? Something cooler could be coming very soon. Samsung has been working on foldable displays for a number of years, and the South Korean giant might finally be ready to showcase its first completely flexible smartphone in 2019.
Information about the phone, which has been dubbed the Galaxy X or “Treble Eight,” has slowly trickled out. Here’s everything we think we know about it so far.
Name, release date, and price
According to a recent report from the Wall Street Journal, sources close to the matter claim Samsung plans on launching the device early next year — which corroborates past reports from The Investor.
The report also claims the initial rollout wouldn’t be on a large scale, but would instead target more specific markets such as mobile gamers. If the response is successful, then Samsung will have a ‘broader commercial debut in the second half of 2019.’ Sources say that Samsung is less focused on the device being a huge hit right away, but are more focused on being the first company to produce a foldable-screen smartphone. This could mean that both timing and design of the device could change over time.
While Samsung might be the first smartphone manufacturer to launch a phone with a foldable screen, it won’t come at a cheap price. Kim Jang-yeol, head of research at Golden Bridge Investment, says the phone could reportedly cost as much as two million won at release, Korea Times reports. In the U.S., that converts to about $1,850 — which makes it even more expensive than the iPhone X.
Other rumors suggest that the Galaxy X will be shown off in February 2019, at Mobile World Congress. While it’s unclear when the public will be able to see the Galaxy X’s final look, Park said Samsung plans to show the device to U.S. and European mobile carriers at next year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Even though past rumors claim Samsung apparently already showed off the Galaxy X in a private event at CES 2018.
In May, The Bell reports that Samsung has changed the name of its foldable smartphone project, and is referring to the Galaxy X under the code name “Winner.”
Why the change in moniker? As The Bell points out, the change in name could be to signify moving from development to actual manufacture — in essence “Project Valley” was the name of the research that begot the “Winner” Galaxy X smartphone. That’s obviously a good thing — a code-named smartphone means that development is very likely now, and we could soon be seeing an actual working version of the Galaxy X.
This has been in the cards for some time. Samsung it made reference to flexible and folding screens several times in its end-of-2017 financial report, discussing short- to midterm advancements in mobile, and its intention to “differentiate its smartphones by adopting cutting edge technologies, such as foldable OLED displays.”
Samsung hasn’t been shy about the Galaxy X’s existence. The smartphone’s model number — SM-G888N0 — was posted on a support page on Samsung’s site, and while the page is currently empty and lists no other information, it’s not the first time we’ve seen the number appear. The phone’s model number (with “N0” reportedly denoting that it’s for the South South Korean market), was also listed on documents for Bluetooth testing. Then it was referenced in Wi-Fi certification from the Wi-Fi Alliance and in filings submitted to the National Radio Research Agency of the Korea Communications Commission.
Components needed to produce between 2,000 and 3,000 foldable Galaxy X phones have apparently been ordered by Samsung, ready to make a series of the devices during the first half of this year. An anonymous industry source informed Korean site The Investor that Samsung will “test the waters” with the limited run prototype, which may launch in the last part of 2018.
A limited run of test phones does fit in with previous reports. A report from ETNews showed Samsung intended to begin production of a prototype phone in the third quarter of 2017, in order to “verify quality of foldable smartphone by producing thousands of prototypes.” They missed that target, but most sources are still adamant that Samsung is going ahead with the phone, and will be monitoring the quality of the prototypes internally — and will likely begin producing a consumer version of the phone if prototypes hit the mark.
The company first introduced the concept of a foldable display at CES 2013 and supposedly showed its first foldable phone prototype in a private meeting at CES 2014.
The most recent report comes from the Korean Times who spoke to Park Hyung-woo, an analyst at Shinhan Financial in South Korea. Park believes the Galaxy X will have two inside panels forming the 7.3-inch screen when the phone is unfolded, along with one outside panel to use when it’s folded.
According to Korean news site The Bell, the final design for the Galaxy X foldable smartphone has been tentatively confirmed. In a surprise to absolutely no one, the Galaxy X will apparently be using OLED panels in its construction — but what is notable is the number of them. According to The Bell’s report, the Galaxy X will feature three 3.5-inch OLED panels: two that form a massive 7-inch screen when unfolded, and a single one on the rear of the device that allows for the phone to be used when folded. If such a design is accurate, we could soon be adding a device with a 7-inch screen to our list of the smallest smartphones — not something we thought we’d be doing.
Screens without bezels, like the ones used on the Galaxy S8, may be used to create a seamless, one-screen look. A recent patent confirmed that Samsung is experimenting with even more bezel-less phones — possibly even a completely bezel-less front with an under-display fingerprint sensor. If the Galaxy X was to pull this off, it could usher in a new era of smartphone design.
Previous Galaxy X designs showed a massive 7.3-inch OLED screen that folded down into a shape reminiscent of the popular “clamshell” phone designs of the past. The above image shows a Galaxy X that’s less sleek than current smartphone designs, with the back of the phone sporting a curved and wavy design. On November 9, 2017, Sammobile released a whole host of images that appeared to show the Galaxy X. A previous patent from Samsung Display was registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office at the end of September 2016. The diagrams included are dated mid-June and show a clamshell-like device that resembles a makeup compact, folding out into a traditional rectangular smartphone shape.
Before this, a different patent filed by Samsung showed how a folded and unfolded Galaxy X might operate. As Patently Mobile reports, a user could touch an icon on the edge area of the phone so that the app will be open once the device is unfolded. Multiple user profiles would also be displayed on the edge, allowing multiple users to enter passwords to access information from the device’s edge.
Updated on June 18: Galaxy X will reportedly launch early 2019