The Foldable Display Smartphone’s Time Has Come

Following the news on the $2000 Samsung Galaxy Fold? Well in short, this laudable device, which had plenty of accolades from early press accounts, encountered significant display issues that have delayed the release of this “new category” product. So word on the street is the device will not ship as originally planned-and no ship date is available as of this writing. But take heart, it’s not the first still-born product launch of a foldable display device, and this time things are different – way different, that point to a successful near-term future for the foldable category.

Extra points to anyone who guessed we are talking about the Que proReader based on a flexible display that made a big splash at CES 2010. There was lots of excitement heralding the era of flexible displays nine (count ’em, 9!) years ago. The idea of decoupling the display size (reading / viewing / browsing area) from the size of the device is compelling enough to be a category buster. But alas, that ended with first a product delay, then product cancellation in August that same year, almost a decade ago.

This time things are different. First, it’s Samsung, the largest (some would say the most successful) maker of smartphones on the planet. Next, the company is known for innovating in smartphone displays (OLED in particular). Samsung reshaped the OLED category to the point that even Apple CEO Tim Cook, once critical of the display technology, (2013 Goldman Sachs public event) finally capitulated to OLED’s display superiority over LCD and began shipping them in flagship iPhone X devices in 2018.

DisplayMate labs, consistently ranks the Samsung, (and now Apple) OLED’s as world class, and often equal to or even better than studio monitor display quality, in the palm of your hand. Bravo, Samsung.
SSFold5Samsung Galaxy Fold decouples the display size from the size of the device, Source:

What’s not to like? OK, beyond price and fragile screen, once the latter is taken care of the former may just begin to drop, and ‘voila!’ a new device category is born, not this time from the halls of Apple’s design team, but innovative Korean rival, Samsung.

To say we are behind the curve on products that bend, roll or even fold is perhaps putting it mildly. As recent as 2015 LG showed several initiatives including a road map that had the market well into this space by 2017 including foldable and rollable phones and tablets and even rollable TVs. Way cool-yes, but these are still horizon technologies for the consumer in 2019 as we close in on the end of the decade.

Display roadmap from LG product presentation DisplayWeek 2015

So yes, what’s old is new again. And the now, yet to be born Samsung Galaxy Fold is still in gestation as the company’s team of display wizards work out the final bugs in this category busting new device. Fear not, it will happen, soon and by this time next year we may be musing, how we ever got along without it? — Stephen Sechrist