Mobile

Galaxy X: Price, specs, rumored March release date for Samsung’s foldable phone

The foldable phone era has officially begun. Samsung introduced the world to its first foldable phone this week, a device rumored to be called the Galaxy X or Galaxy F. This was not a typical announcement with every detail on display as they were for the Galaxy S9 or Note 9 unveiling. Rather, Samsung teased its foldable phone through a short video and by hoisting aloft a working prototype in an executive’s hand on stage.

Although Samsung never displayed the foldable phone up close — not even behind museum glass — the device is plenty real. It’s conceptualized enough to earn Google’s backing. In fact, Samsung’s project seems to have spurred official Android support for all foldable phones, no matter the manufacturer. Meanwhile, Samsung gathered developers in a Wednesday afternoon session to share a few more details, such as the phone’s 4.5 and 7.3-inch screen sizes.

Despite the dribs and drabs of information, the foldable phone’s brief onstage appearance raised more questions than answers. Here’s what we know — and what’s still to come.

What’s the phone called?

Samsung didn’t give the foldable phone a name, but rumors suggest that it’ll be called the Galaxy X or Galaxy F. The “F” could stand for “fold” or “flex”. The “X” might mean “extra” or “10”, since there are 9 Galaxy S phones out — though we do expect to see a Galaxy S10 around March this year.

What is a foldable phone?

If we go by Samsung’s definition, a foldable phone is a device with a cellular connection (hence the “phone” part) that looks like a tablet when it’s full opened and can close to look like your usual phone. Samsung’s prototype has a tablet-like screen that closes inward like a book, but Royole’s FlexPai, another foldable phone, has an outward-folding screen, which means the “screen” is on the outside. There’s no single definition.

Didn’t ZTE make a foldable phone?

Last year’s ZTE Axon M was an early version of a foldable phone that attached two separate phone screens through a central hinge. Samsung’s foldable phone (and Royole’s FlexPai) appear to have unibody displays that fold at the midpoint. A magnet secures the FlexPai’s screen in the “closed” position.

We can credit the Axon M with exploring different new ways to use a dual-screen device; Royole has already adopted some of these, for example, mirroring the contents of both screens so people on either side of a table can watch the same video clip. ZTE could very well come up with a second-generation foldable (or “foldable”) phone.

What’s the benefit of a foldable phone?

There are two main advantages. First, a foldable phone can more than double your available screen space. For example, Samsung’s model has a 4.5-inch display that you’ll use when it’s closed. Then the inside opens into a 7.3-inch screen. You could argue that you have the equivalent of three displays to work with.

A larger screen gives you an expanded viewing surface, but it also unlocks different ways that you can use your device. For example, Samsung’s foldable display will let you multitask in three areas at once.  ZTE’s Axon M lets you use the entire screen for one app, load a separate app on each screen, or mirror the same app on both screens.

What happens when you open and close Samsung’s phone when you’re using an app?

Like the Royole FlexPai, this foldable phone will automatically transfer the app or screen you’re looking at in the folded-up “closed” position to the “open” position, and vice versa. We noticed some lag here on the FlexPai, but haven’t had a chance to see how Samsung will handle the transition.

What’s so great about Samsung’s display?

Samsung created a new display for its foldable phone, the Infinity Flex Display. The company said that it had to modify the usual layers that are part of any display (this is what lights up the “screen” you see on your phone). All displays are made of layers, but they’re usually stacked and unmoving. The Infinity Flex Display uses a new adhesive that Samsung developed to laminate the display layers so they can flex and fold hundreds of thousands of times.

The company also needed to make the Infinity Flex Display thinner than any other mobile display. It cut the thickness of the polarizer layer, which helps make the screen legible, by 45 percent.

When will Samsung’s foldable phone go on sale?

Samsung said it will start mass producing the phone in the “coming months.” The foldable phone will likely start selling in 2019, and the latest rumor pegs March as the release date. We expect Samsung to hold a separate launch event to introduce the details. Again, this was just a sneak peek.

How much will it cost?

The short answer is that we don’t know because Samsung hasn’t announced it. However, it’s easy to guess that this will be an expensive device. The Royole FlexPai’s foldable phone for developers costs $1,318 for a device with 6GB RAM and 128GB of internal storage. The version with 8GB RAM and 256GB storage goes for $1,469.

What’s the battery life like?

Samsung aims to give its foldable phone battery life that lasts as long as current Galaxy smartphones, said Jisun Park, the engineering director and head of the system software group for Samsung’s mobile business. That’s despite the fact there’s more active screen to drain the battery.

Where is the battery anyway?

We don’t have access to the design particulars, but batteries don’t bend. Expect a large battery to sit on one side and many of the other components to balance it out on the other. One major complaint we had with the ZTE Axon M was that it felt imbalanced with the half containing the battery drastically thicker and heavier than the other half. Samsung will have to watch out for that.

Leave a Reply