[THE INVESTOR] Anticipation is rising over Samsung’s foldable smartphone, with concept images and videos of the so-called Galaxy X making the rounds every month.
However, industry insiders are cautious about the high expectations, saying there are still many unaddressed technical challenges.
A rendering image from Techconfigurations.com
A new concept video of the Galaxy X from US tech media outlet Tech Configuration caught attention on Dec. 27. It showed that the device’s 5-inch display can be used as a normal smartphone in the folded mode and as an 8-inch tablet when unfolded.
This is just the latest of many stories that have emerged in recent years. However, a series of concept images, videos and patents have fueled speculation that the new foldable phone will be unveiled soon.
And lending weight to the rumor were remarks by Samsung’s mobile division chief Koh Dong-Jin in September. At a media conference, the chief said “We are targeting to launch foldable phones next year, although we are in the process of overcoming some hurdles for mass production.”
The remarks caused a stir in the industry, but insiders appeared doubtful that foldable phones would be launched next year.
“It is quite unlikely we will see the mass production of foldable phones next year due to unaddressed technical challenges,” a source familiar with the matter said.
Another industry insider cited issues related to durability, such as ensuring the device can be folded and unfolded many times, and costs involved in making the device thinner.
However, even if the foldable smartphone is not produced next year, Samsung still faces saturation in both the market and innovation in one of its mainstays, smartphones. It will have to make efforts to develop new phones, according to industry watchers.
The global mobile phone has seen slow growth in recent years. The market is expected to see sales of around 1.82 billion units this year down from 1.89 billion units last year, according to Gartner. The figure is expected to slightly increase to 1.92 billion units next year.
Samsung will for the first time see its market share fall to 19.2 percent next year from a 20.5 percent share this year, with shipments dropping to 315 million units from 319 million units, Strategy Analytics predicted, citing fiercer competition with Apple’s premium phones and Chinese firms’ budget smartphones.
“The biggest fear for tech firms is to see consumers no longer want to change their devices so they will keep innovating both hardware and software,” said Lee Byung-tae, a professor at KAIST College of Business.
“The foldable phones matter to Samsung to satisfy the needs of consumers whose appetite for bigger screens -- yet in small sizes -- appears endless,” he added.
By Shin Ji-hye/The Korea Herald (firstname.lastname@example.org