Samsung’s EVP Eui-Suk Chung said at MWC 2019, “The Galaxy Fold provides a completely new way to use a smartphone”. So, what does he mean?
Chung is Executive Vice President and Head of Software and Artificial Intelligence at Samsung’s Mobile Communications Business. He eschews that foldables are just a fad saying they will have a more powerful and profound effect on people lives than the smartphone did. The remainder is paraphrased.
GG: What is the rationale behind a foldable? What is a new way to use a smartphone?
Our understanding of consumer needs – in particular, demand for a larger screen that is comfortable to hold – led us to create this revolutionary device. We have driven the 18:9 (or more) screen to its logical conclusion.
Samsung had already pioneered category-defining innovation with the Galaxy Note series, the ‘phablet’ hybrid. But we saw a demand for even larger screens to keep up with video content consumption. We had prototypes of a flexible display technology in 2011, but it took another eight years to develop the technology to deliver this product in a truly meaningful way for users as a direct response to the way people are currently using their phones.”
GG: You talk about a meaningful way? What do you mean?
Essentially an expanded screen that is almost the size of a tablet and a versatile camera into one device that can slip into your pocket. Galaxy Fold is for those who want it all on a bigger screen, but without the bulk – a ‘phone plus more’.
When folded it acts like a typical smartphone notifications and other essentials. When opened the larger immersive display is great for higher quality viewing, in-depth multitasking and productivity.
GG: What have been some of the challenges? A robust screen must have been top of those?
Making a foldable smartphone was a large undertaking – from creating new robust screen materials and methods to overcome mechanical challenges. We focused on achieving the best user experience. We had to create from scratch all the new elements – screen, hardware, software, app compatibility – are all layers that have come together to form a device with optimum usability at its core.
Part of that was helping Google to develop fold compatible Android and the developer community to make fold compatible apps. It was not just for a Samsung proprietary solution, but a whole world Android solution.
We continue to work with the Android developer community to ensure apps are optimized for the Galaxy Fold and that user experience only continues to improve. Support for App Continuity and Multi-Active Window will vary based on the application and the developer’s adherence with Google policies and guidelines.
And we needed to develop a new User Experience (UX) for the new format.
What is next?
Foldables will get better, thinner and cheaper and eventually take over the flagship market. There is just too much tech and cost; however to see it flow down to mid-range.
For us, this is the start of our first-ever foldable smartphone, and we are excited about what’s next – from ‘foldable’ to ‘roll-able’ and even to ‘stretchable’.
GadgetGuy’s take: Fold out your cheque book
I am of two minds about foldables. Not that they will be a very useful addition to those that need more screen real estate but whether to wait for Foldables 2.0 before buying. I suspect Apple will adopt a wait and see letting everyone else make mistakes first.
For example, we see slightly different takes from Samsung, OPPO, Huawei, Royole, ZTE, and I am guessing Xiamoi and many more.
Some have the screen on the outside, some on the inside, some have three screens, some have a thicker spine for the camera, some a 180° curve and some a gentler one. And if Motorola’s Razer foldable flip phone ever gets the go, it may change the dynamic yet again.
I also think that no matter how many times you torture the fold that this is still a weak link. If you want to spend $3K plus you want it to last a few years.
Then there is the issue of 5G. It too is elemental in nature and implementation. Sure we have early chipsets from Samsung, Qualcomm, Intel, Huawei et al. but these are by no means the ultimate product. Again Apple has adopted a wait and see attitude.
Anyway, hats off to the innovators and let’s see where this all goes before we see roll-out and stretchies.