Sure, smartphones have gotten bigger, sleeker screens, but innovation has been pretty lacking beyond that. They’ve basically looked the same. Until now.
Samsung is bending the mold.
On Wednesday at its developer conference in San Francisco, Samsung introduced its new Infinity Flex Display, a foldable screen that can allow manufacturers to create new, unique devices such as a phone that folds out to become a tablet-like device with a larger display.
“The foldable display lays the foundation for a new kind of mobile experience,” said DJ Koh, president and CEO of Samsung IT and mobile communications division, in a statement. “We are excited to work with developers on this new platform to create new value for our customers.”
The device looks like a traditional phone when closed, before opening to reveal a 7.3-inch screen. Justin Denison, Samsung’s senior vice president of mobile product marketing, says the display is durable enough to be folded “hundreds of thousands of times.”
Although the product shown Wednesday was just a prototype, the company plans to release a consumer product that features the display in 2019 with mass production starting in the “coming months.”
Denison says the company will share more on this technology “in action” at its next “Unpacked” event. Samsung has previously used its “Unpacked” events to introduce new Galaxy phones. It traditionally does one in the spring for the Galaxy S line of phones and one in the fall for its Galaxy Note line.
In addition to creating the hardware, Samsung has partnered with Google to work on the software to make sure Android apps work seamlessly regardless of whether the display is folded in a “smartphone-like” mode or opened fully like a tablet. The app you were using when the device is closed will be there when you open up the phone in tablet mode.
When the display is fully unfolded, users will be able to have three apps open at once.
Google calls these devices “foldables” and is adding support for Android developers to begin making apps for the new category. The company showed off a mock-up of its own vision for these new devices on Twitter.
We just announced support for foldables at #AndroidDevSummit, a new form factor coming next year from Android partners.
Android apps run seamlessly as the device folds, achieving this form factor’s chief feature: screen continuity. pic.twitter.com/NAfOmCOY26
— Android Developers (@AndroidDev) November 7, 2018
In addition to the new foldable display, Samsung also announced it was working on stretchable and rollable screens, though it did not show off those products on stage.
Follow Eli Blumenthal on Twitter @eliblumenthal
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