SEOUL, Feb. 21 (Korea Bizwire) — Samsung Electronics Co. made a splash Thursday with its highly anticipated foldable Galaxy Fold, hoping to bring fresh momentum to the tepid smartphone market that has taken flak for offering very little innovation for years.
The South Korean tech giant introduced the Galaxy Fold up front during its Unpacked events in San Francisco and London, ahead of showcasing four types of its flagship Galaxy S10 series — standard, plus, budget and 5G.
The new form factor drew cheers at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco, packed with about 3,500 media and global partners.
It was one of the most-talked-about phones this year, spurring numerous rumors about its main specifications and price over the past weeks.
Samsung said the Galaxy Fold is “flexible and tough, built to last” and “designed for entertainment” with an intuitive user interface developed in collaboration with Google and Android.
The foldable phone, which will be available April 26 starting at $1,980, was developed following the debut of the company’s first flexible display prototype in 2011.
“Today, Samsung is writing the next chapter in mobile innovation history by changing what’s possible in a smartphone,” DJ Koh, head of Samsung’s IT & Mobile Communications Division, said during the Unpacked event live streamed globally. “Galaxy Fold introduces a completely new category that unlocks new capabilities never seen before with our Infinity Flex Display.”
The Galaxy Fold features the world’s first 7.3-inch Infinity Flex Display, which folds into a compact device with a separate 4.6-inch cover display.
With six lenses — three in the back, two on the inside and one on the cover — the Galaxy Fold introduces a new level of multitasking, allowing users to run other apps during a video call. The camera setup consists of a main dual-aperture, 12-megapixel camera, a two-time zoom and super wide shooters, along with two 10-megapixel cameras and an 8-megapixel depth-sensing sensor.
The Galaxy Fold packs a 7 nanometer 64-bit Octa-core process, made up of eight processors, along with 12 GB RAM, and 512 GB built-in storage, with no expandable storage options. It is powered by a 4,380 mAh battery, with a fast charging system compatible with wired and wireless devices.
Samsung said the larger screen will offer a new way to multitask, watch videos, play games and more by displaying up to three windows simultaneously.
“The internal screen does not merely bend. It folds,” Samsung said. “Folding is a more intuitive motion, and a more difficult innovation to deliver.”
The world’s largest handset maker said it invented a new polymer layer and created a display around 50 percent thinner than the typical smartphone display.
To open the foldable device seamlessly, Samsung adopted a hinge technology with multiple interlocking gears. The fingerprint scanner is on the side where the thumb naturally rests, so the device unlocks easily.
Two batteries and the components are evenly distributed inside of the device, it noted.
“Samsung worked with Google and the Android developer community to ensure that apps and services were available for the Galaxy Fold’s unique experience,” the firm said.
It is the first time Samsung has held an Unpacked event in San Francisco, Apple’s home turf. The move is seen as Samsung’s attempt to challenge its U.S. archrival and show people that it has upped the ante.
The unveiling of the foldable phone comes just days before China’s Huawei presents its own folding tech on the eve of MWC Barcelona, the world’s largest mobile industry gathering, which opens Monday.
While the new form factor wowed the world, Samsung is likely to face questions on whether the premium device priced at nearly $2,000 can overcome the early market threshold and appeal to the global customers.
The Korean electronics maker has been under pressure to maintain a competitive edge over Apple in the high-end segment and cost-effective Chinese manufacturers in the mid- and lower-end markets.
“If a foldable smartphone is priced at 2 million won (US$1,178) in the domestic market, it is nearly double the price of a 4-inch smartphone or a 7-inch phablet,” KT Economics and Management Research Institute said in a report. “It would be hard to get consumers to open their wallets just by making it foldable.”
According to market researcher Strategy Analytics, handset makers are expected to roll out approximately 3 million foldable phones this year. Total global shipments are expected to rise to 14 million, 30 million in 2021 and 50 million in 2022, but the estimated figure still remains far below the annual shipments of 1.5 billion globally.
Strategy Analytics expected sales from foldable devices to reach $2 billion, or 1 percent of this year’s global smartphone market, due to their hefty price tags.