For years, we’ve heard rumors about a Samsung foldable smartphone called the Galaxy X.
The phone still hasn’t surfaced – but Samsung’s mobile business head DJ Koh said on August 10 that it’s “not far away” during a press conference following the company’s Unpacked event where it announced the Galaxy Note 9 phone.
The timeline for the Galaxy X’s launch was refined more recently when Koh said that the device could be announced in November this year during the company’s developer conference, according to CNBC, which spoke with Koh during the IFA tech show in Berlin.
A lot of phone manufacturers, including Apple, are also said to be creating similar foldable smartphones. But if Samsung stays the course, it might be the first to execute, since it has the added advantage of being the maker of the OLED display that make bendable screens possible.
Here’s what we know about the rumored Galaxy X smartphone, reportedly codenamed “Winner”:
The Galaxy X, as it’s been nicknamed, will reportedly be 7 inches diagonally when unfolded. That’s about the same size as a small tablet, giving more screen space than a traditional smartphone, in a smaller package.
- Korean Patent Office
When the screen is folded in half “like a wallet,” there’s a smaller display screen on the front and cameras on the back, according to the Journal.
Samsung’s patents and prototypes show a device that either opens and closes from side to side like a book, or horizontally like a notepad. Either way, the fold will make it possible to incorporate bigger display options. It might also give users the option to split the screen into two panels that show different things or show one big picture, similar to what Samsung accomplished with its 48-inch ultrawide computer monitor – but that’s still speculation.
The Galaxy X will have features that’ll make you ditch your tablet.
- Antonio Villas-Boas/Business Insider
Having a two-in-one device that serves as both a phone and a tablet is a pretty good reason for the Galaxy X to exist. It means you wouldn’t necessarily need a tablet if you use one.
But Koh is apparently concerned that users may still not see the benefits of a phone/tablet hybrid device. “If the unfolded experience is the same as the tablet, why would [users] buy it?” Koh told CNBC during the IFA event in Berlin.
In response to his own question, Koh told CNBC that Samsung will add features and innovations “so when the end customer uses it, [they think] ‘wow, this is the reason Samsung made it’.”
The foldable design might make it a little more fragile.
- Jeff Turner/Flickr (CC)
Depending on the material of the outside layer, a smartphone that folds on itself could serve as its own screen protector, but the fold might create new issues in terms of durability, as indicated by Samsung exec DongJin Koh earlier this year
“We want to have a good reaction from customers once the phone is out in the market. But there are still durability issues that we need to address,” he told reporters at a press briefing at CES in January.It’s possible that pushing two screens against each other makes for a harsher impact on collision.
An additional concern with the amount of screen space is that multiple screens – meaning the ones on the outside and the inside – are more likely to make the battery overheat.
The Galaxy X could be bulkier than most modern smartphones.
- Antonio Villas-Boas/Business Insider
Most smartphone manufacturers have spent years making devices slimmer, and a foldable smartphone could be like adding a layer to a thin phone or stacking two thin phones on top of each other.
The ZTE Axon M, marketed as the first foldable smartphone, is made of two displays attached by a mechanical hinge – but it’s almost 1.5x thicker than Samsung’s Galaxy S9.
And if the size of the display is comparable to a tablet’s, then we can assume the device will be closer in weight to a tablet, too.
It’s going to be expensive, with industry watchers predicting a price of $1,500 or more, since it needs two premium screens.
For reference, Samsung’s most expensive phone, an unlocked Galaxy Note 8, costs about $960.
New display technologies tend to make smartphones more expensive: In the past few years, consumers have seen Samsung’s curved display smartphones steadily increase in price. The starting price of the newest iPhone, too, has gone from $640 to $1,000, partly because Apple switched from an LCD to an OLED display.
The multiple screens will also require a larger battery to prevent the aforementioned overheating and more powerful processing chips. If memory and storage capacity increase, that’s even more dollars on the price tag.
In addition to screen-on-screen and overheating concerns, the Galaxy X would have a host of issues we can’t predict.
- Hollis Johnson
New technologies almost always have issues that don’t come up until the product is on the market, at which point millions of consumers use it and voice their opinions about things that might have been overlooked in testing.
There could be a lot of issues with the phone’s main feature, its foldable display, but the unique layout will probably also influence a lot of other aspects of the phone, like battery life, memory, and aesthetics, to name a few.
Samsung’s edge panel could become obsolete with a foldable Galaxy X.
- Business Insider
Samsung will probably lose the signature curved-edge display on the Galaxy X, so that it can properly close on itself.
Since the edge display is where shortcuts and quick functions are housed, it might not even be necessary on a screen with more real estate. Plus, as it is right now, the edge display can’t be used simultaneously with the main screen; multitasking would be better on a foldable phone.
There will be extremely limited availability to start, with a broader release later in the year.
Limited availability is a tactic that has worked for Samsung in the past: In 2013, Samsung released the Galaxy Round – its first attempt at a smartphone with a curved display – to select Asian markets so it could learn from its mistakes and wow a larger population.
The following year it released the Galaxy Note Edge, which had a single curved edge. It wound up serving as the blueprint for every curved-display device on the market.
It’s not a bad play, considering the amount of scrutiny the foldable phone will face, but it does mean that our chances of seeing it sooner rather than later are slim, at least here in the United States.
Prachi Bhardwaj and Fionna Agomuoh contributed to earlier versions of this story.