Samsung intends to launch a smartphone with a foldable screen – a device some expect to to be called the Galaxy X or Galaxy F – in 2019, built around new technology revealed overnight at an event in San Francisco.
The 'Infinity Flex Display' will allow a smartphone to have two screens: a regular display on the front, and a 7.3-inch foldable screen on the inside, which turns on when the phone is opened like a book. In effect, it's like a smartphone which becomes a tablet.
The widescreen display would allow three apps side by side in what Samsung is calling the phone's "multi-active window" mode. Google will add support for multiple screens running multiple apps into the Android operating system so that all foldable and multi-screen Android phones will work the same way.
During the presentation Samsung disguised the rest of the phone’s design by covering everything beyond the screen with extra casing – similar to how prototype cars are camouflaged during street testing.
The device appeared to have a slight radius to its hinge, making it more like an empty ring binder than a book.
Samsung's rationale for the widescreen folding displays is that people already run and swap between many apps at the same time, but do so by switching between apps. The Infinity Flex Display will change this by showing those apps side by side.
Samsung also announced a new software interface called One UI which will drive the multi-screen system but also launch on the single-screen Galaxy S9 and Note 9 in January 2019.
Its look is optimised for controlling devices with one thumb, a necessity as screens become larger, and also includes simplified controls, new icons, and more rounded corners.
Developers will be able to create apps which can shuffle between the front screen and the inside screen when the phone is opened and closed.
The bendable book-like devices are Samsung's bid to shake up a smartphone business awash with black, shiny rectangles that look increasingly similar, with executives claiming that the majority of smartphones in coming years will have foldable screens.
The South Korean technology giant said the display can be folded hundreds of thousands of times, with mass production of the screens to begin in coming months. Samsung also revealed it is exploring screens that roll and stretch.
Additional contributions by David Flynn