While flip phones are considered relics of the past, foldable phones appear to be the future of smart devices.
- Tablet folds completely in half to ‘pocket size’
- Start-up Royole unveiled foldable tablet in October
- Tech analyst says Australians care most about battery life, price and functionality
Samsung today offered a first look at its new smartphone tablet hybrid, which folds down to the size of a regular mobile phone.
It was displayed at the Samsung Developers Conference in San Francisco, with mobile product marketing executive Justin Denison demonstrating the folding features on stage.
The lights dimmed as he took the device from his pocket and unfolded it to reveal the 18cm tablet-style screen.
Users will be able to run three different apps at the same time.
Mr Denison spoke of ambitious plans to possibly develop foldable technology to allow for rollable and stretchable display screens.
Not the first foldable
Samsung’s grand reveal was somewhat overshadowed by the debut of virtually unknown start-up Royole’s offering, the FlexPai, at the end of October.
This bendy device earned the title of the world’s first commercial foldable smartphone with a flexible display.
It has also been touted as a combination of a mobile phone and tablet, hinging at the middle to fold into a smartphone-size.
FlexPai’s developers said the screen was “virtually unbreakable”, having passed durability tests where it was bent more than 200,000 times.
Mr Denison said mass production of Samsung’s foldable offering would kick off in the “coming months”.
Meanwhile, Apple is also expected to venture into foldables, suggesting it is very much the way of the future.
Will Aussie consumers go for foldable tech?
According to Alvin Lee, a senior analyst at tech research firm Telsyte, Australians are likely to embrace the benefits of a larger screen.
“Australians are favouring larger smartphones, with one in three smartphone users already using a phablet (5.5-inch or above),” Mr Lee said.
“This highlights the potential of foldable larger displays that can still fit into the pockets.”
According to Telsyte data, the number of Australian smartphone users with bigger screens has more than doubled in two years.
But Australian consumers appear to be more focused on the practicalities of a smartphone, rather than the wow-factor of whizbang features.
“Our research shows battery life, price and ease of use are the top factors when choosing a smartphone,” Mr Lee said.
“While the demand could increase over time, as the technology improves [for example, slimmer design], price and overall user experience will remain key success factors.”
Mr Denison said Samsung is looking to develop stretchable and rollable display screens. (Reuters: Stephen Lam)
A foldable future?
We already know Samsung want to develop rollable, stretchable screens.
But before developers get too carried away with the possibilities, it seems they will need to nail the practicalities first.
“The design of foldable tech has to make sense from the user perspective, providing better overall user experience or suited for unique use cases,” Mr Lee said.