[THE INVESTOR] Samsung Electronics has indicated that the next Note phone, tentatively called the Galaxy Note 9, will become its first foldable smartphone.
"Samsung has the foldable smartphone in its roadmap for the Note series and is currently working to solve a series of hurdles before unveiling it next year,” said Koh Dong-jin, head of the tech giant’s mobile division, at a media conference on Sept.12.
“Samsung will not roll out the foldable smartphone as a stop-gap product, but as a well-made flagship that can appeal to consumers,” he added.
It was the first time the Samsung CEO mentioned an exact timeframe for the launch of a phone that can be folded in half.
However, Koh did not clarify whether the phone will be branded as a smartphone or a tablet PC.
It had been anticipated that Samsung would showcase a limited number of foldable phones at this year’s IFA trade show held in August and early September, but the plan was ditched at the last minute due to concerns over glitches in the foldable display technology.
Industry watchers said the latest hints from Samsung about the foldable smartphone would benefit parts suppliers, like chemical firm Kolon Industries, which supplies transparent flexible films used in foldable displays.
In the meantime, since the unveiling of the new Note 8 in New York on Aug. 23, the bigger-screen smartphone, featuring a 6.3-inch edge-to-edge display, 6GB RAM, and a dual-lens camera, has been setting record preorder sales worldwide.
Samsung said it has received 650,000 preorders in five days since Aug. 7, more than double the figure for the predecessor Note 7. The firm expects the figure to reach the 800,000 mark today. Its official Korean launch is scheduled for Sept. 15.
Here are excerpts of the Q&A session with Koh on the firm's mobile business strategy, including the foldable variant of the Note phone, AI speaker and its rival Apple.
Q: Apple’s new iPhone will be unveiled a few hours later. What is the competitiveness of the Note 8 over the new iPhone?
A: We are not developing our Galaxy Note and S series phones to compete with rivals. All the newly adopted technologies are in line with our long-term product roadmap. It took four years for us to develop an iris scanner, some years for the IP68-level dust- and water-resistance, and six years for Bixby’s voice recognition.
Q: What is the timeline for Samsung’s foldable smartphone? Will it be rolled out under the Note brand?
A: Samsung has the foldable smartphone in its roadmap for the Note series and is currently working to solve a series of hurdles before unveiling it next year. Samsung will not roll out the foldable smartphone as a stopgap product, but as a well-made flagship that can appeal to consumers.
Q: Can you comment on the Note 8 setting record preorder sales?
A: The figure exceeded our expectations. The first five-day preorders reached 600,000 units, about 2 1/2 times higher than the Note 7.
Q: Do you have a plan to roll out an AI-based speaker specifically for the Note8?
A: As I previously said during the IFA trade show, collaborative work with Harman is under way since the acquisition of the US audio system firm last year. Samsung and the US firm, which has considerable brand power in the global market, are working together to develop AI speakers. Harman will be Samsung’s exclusive partner for such a product.
Q: What is Samsung’s business strategy to improve the falling market share in China and Japan?
A: China is one of the most important markets for the firm’s mobile business unit and we have taken a series of measures to turn things around in the region recently, such as the replacement of the Chinese chief and the merger of multiple branches and local sales units. We have also picked new partners. (As to business strategies for global markets) Samsung will continue to bring meaningful innovation by incorporating new technologies into products and to build a strong brand.
By Kim Young-won (firstname.lastname@example.org)