By Kim Yoo-chul
Foldable phones are coming ― it's only a matter of time ― and Samsung Electronics will be the first company in the world to put one on the market, possibly as soon as next year.
Analysts covering Samsung Electronics said Tuesday the company plans to release a Galaxy-branded "foldable" device, next year.
"Parts affiliates and first-tier subcontractors will begin supplying parts to Samsung Electronics' handset division beginning in November, at the earliest, with the company assembling the phone aiming for a launch next year," Park Hyung-woo, an analyst at Shinhan Financial, said.
Kim Jang-yeol, head of research at Golden Bridge Investment, said the suggested retail price tag of the Samsung foldable phone, which the brokerage firm expects to be released in the first half of next year, could about 2 million won without subsidies from carriers.
In a recent earnings conference, Samsung confirmed that it was in the process of developing a smartphone that could be folded.
The local brokerage expects the upcoming foldable smartphone will have a 7.3-inch OLED screen. "When the device is folded, the display size is estimated to be 4.5-inches," said Kim.
"This new device is an interesting thing as it will have two inside panels and one outside panel with the two inside panels forming the 7.3-inch screen when the phone is unfolded," Park said, adding Samsung Electronics plans to show the prototype to major U.S. and European mobile carriers in separate private meetings during next year's technology fair in Las Vegas.
Samsung Electronics spokesman Kim Choon-gon said the firm was on track to develop a device featuring a "true foldable display." Regarding other features and specifications for device, the official declined to comment.
Samsung has filed several patents regarding the phone including one on the ability to fold without damaging any "internal components." Its latest patent, dubbed "artificial muscle" is for components moving in sync with the screen to protect them.
Samsung Display spokesman Kim Ho-jeong said the company had no official comments about this phone.
The "world's first" title is the thing that Samsung doesn't want to let its chief Chinese competitors get as Huawei and ZTE are said to be developing devices with foldable screens.
"In a world where Android backers are doing all they can to stand out from the crowd, the reason top-tier smartphone firms are jumping into the market is because foldable designs are different and allow customers to use them one-handed, while also providing a larger high-resolution display when multitasking is desired," a Samsung engineer said.