[ETNEWS] Sumitomo Chemical, a Japanese electronic materials firm, has been picked as the sole supplier of polyimide, or PI, films for Samsung Electronics’ first foldable smartphone, beating other rivals including Kolon Industries, according to sources on Sept. 19.
PI, a transparent plastic film that protects the display placed underneath, is considered a core component of foldable smartphones for its flexibility as well as durability.
Samsung’s first foldable smartphone, tentatively named Galaxy F, is anticipated to be unveiled at the firm’s developer conference in November and hit the shelves early next year.
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Most of the premium smartphones utilize glass, like US firm Corning’s Gorilla Glass, to protect the smartphone panels, but the glass-type components are not suitable for foldable devices as they are prone to breaking.
In recent years, electronic components makers have competitively joined the race to develop the protective film as major smartphone companies, like Samsung, have signaled that they would roll out smartphones with a new form factor in a bid to reinvigorate the global smartphone market facing slow growth due to fierce competition and high penetration.
Kolon Industries is one of the bidders that had competed with Smitomo to provide the flexible films to Samsung.
Although the Japanese parts maker does not have facilities capable of mass-producing the PI films, the company will be able to meet supply orders since Samsung will produce a limited batch of foldable smartphones, according to sources.
“As Smitomo has no manufacturing lines for PI films, it is likely to produce the films at either pilot facilities or through other contracted manufacturers,” said one of the sources, adding “Dongwoo Fine-chem, Smitomo’s wholly owned subsidiary in Korea, will be in charge of coating the films.”
According to previous news reports, Smimoto President Masakaze Tokura said in a meeting in June that the Japanese firm had been chosen as the supplier for Samsung’s foldable phone. His announcement at the time was not confirmed by the Korean tech giant.
Samsung’ latest decision will likely force Kolon to change its plans. The Korean electronic materials firm may have to find new customers that want to jump into the foldable smartphone market.
“The release of the foldable phone has not been finalized yet, and Kolon is stilling working to meet the requirements of our potential customers,” a company official said.
By Yoon Kun-il (firstname.lastname@example.org)
This story was co-produced by ET News and The Investor. For any inquiries, contact editor Lee Ji-yoon at email@example.com