Samsung's new collapsible smartphone: Gimmick or game changer?

When Samsung announced on Wednesday the Galaxy Fold a collapsible luxury smartphone that turns into a tablet – I had flashbacks of life before Apple changed everything with the iPhone; a simpler moment when a phone was still just a tool, not a screen, we watched every day.

Although the design of the Galaxy Fold is a return to the concept of the rocking phone, it is far from our point of departure. It's big, it's smart and that's what Samsung is calling for in the future.

Samsung has been working on a foldable phone for years and introduced its Infinity Flex display for the first time in November. Google then confirmed that its Android mobile software supports foldable screens.
The Galaxy Fold is a 4.6-inch smartphone that opens on a 7.4-inch tablet. With the Infinity Flex display, it has a hinge to make the transition more transparent. The device, which will cost $ 1,980, will be available in stores on April 26th. It will run on Android 9.0 and will be available in four colors (black, silver, green and blue).

"We are creating a new dimension for your phone and your life," said a Samsung spokesman at the event. "He does not even define a new category, he defies a new category."

According to Ramon Lamas, Director of Research at IDC, it makes sense for the manufacturer to move the market as smartphone sales have reached a plateau, both in terms of sales and functionality.

"We have looked at different variations of a theme we have already seen," Lamas said. "We've seen big phones, great cameras and great processors, so where are we going next?"

Samsung has a reputation for taking risks – it's one of the first companies to deploy large smartphones – but these efforts do not always work.

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"The strategy [now] is to find a phone that is not available today, and it may not please everyone but to some, and that's fine, "says Lamas.

Consumers who flock to big screens, whether to play or to see more of their data in one place, may be attracted to the Galaxy Fold. It uniquely supports three applications at once: you can watch Netflix (NFLX), Google (GOOG) something and respond to SMS at the same time.

Samsung has already proven its interest in large-screen smartphones with the success of its Galaxy Note range.

"Samsung is on something because people have a smartphone, a tablet and a PC, but what if you could have two things in one and you do not need all these devices?" Lamas said.

Ben Wood, research director of CCS Insights, agrees. Such a move allows Samsung to stand out as a leader in innovation.

"The unveiling of a product ahead of its competitors is an important step," Wood told CNN Business prior to launch. "We have the impression that we are in stone age when it comes to products with flexible displays.This is not a criticism, but simply an observation. the first steps very shy towards the implementation of a technology that may seem like a solution looking for a problem now, but is likely to become a mainstay of consumer electronics designs in the future . "

The Samsung Galaxy Fold

Wood expects Samsung's collapsible smartphone being a magnet for gadget lovers, but preventing inevitable high costs and compromises in usability will limit its attractiveness initially.

"Personally, I'm more interested in a tablet that I can fold than a smartphone, I can close it," said Wood. "The current form factor of smartphones works pretty well and the hinge of a folding device will add volume, but over time, I'm sure this will become a more normal design approach on smartphones."

Samsung will also have to convince developers to design applications for this unique form factor, and consumer demand outside the market may not be enough to encourage that.

But Samsung is not the only company to devote significant resources to a pliable future. Huawei is expected to launch a flexible smartphone in March, while Motorola was preparing a Flip ZRZR smartphone. According to rumors, Intel and Microsoft would also work on collapsible concepts for the tablet and laptop markets.

The design of foldable phones may be a nod to the past, but these efforts, whether they take off or not, are hardly a step backwards.

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