Samsung, LG, Huawei, and other companies have been working for years on technology that could be used in folding smartphones with flexible displays. The idea is that you could have a pocket-sized phone that you can hold in one hand… but unfold the device and you get a larger, tablet-sized display when you want it.

Rumor has it that Samsung might be ready to launch its first folding phone with a flexible display next year… but it won’t be cheap.

According to a report from the South China Morning Post, Samsung’s upcoming Galaxy X could cost as much as 2 million Korean South Korean Won, or about $1850.

Samsung Folding Display concept (2013)

Keep in mind that this report is based on an analyst estimate and not an official statement from Samsung. But given the years of R&D costs that have gone into developing this phone, I’d be surprised if it wasn’t expensive by modern smartphone standards… and we’re living in an age when $1,000 isn’t considered an unreasonable price for a high-end phone.

According to the SCMP, the Samsung Galaxy X is expected to have a 4.5 inch display when its folded in half and a 7.3 inch display when it’s opened, letting you use the same device as a phone or a tablet.

That said, as cool as a folding phone sounds, I’m kind of wondering if there’s a market for them anymore.

When Samsung and other phone makers started working on flexible display technology, most smartphones had 5.5 inch or smaller displays and tablets typically had 7-10 inch screens. These days we’re seeing a growing number of phones with screens that are already approaching 7 inches and almost nobody uses the word “phablet” to describe them anymore.

Phone screen sizes have been trending upward for years, but the recent push toward slimmer bezels has accelerated things a bit since it’s possible to put a larger panel into a phone without increasing the size of the handset. So I’m not really sure why you’d spend more than $1800 on a phone that has a 7.3 inch folding screen when you could buy a phone with a 6.6 inch display for a third of the price.

Then again, like most new technologies, it’s likely that the cost of folding phones will go down over time… if they survive. You can find 40 inch 4K TVs for around $300 these days. It seems like just yesterday that they sold for thousands of dollars.

So maybe the first-generation of folding phones will carry astronomical price tags, but later versions will become more affordable.

Or maybe the’ll be priced too high and offer too little benefit to sell at all… and phone makers will consider them a failed experiment. 4K TVs may be cheap these days. But 3D TVs never really got off the ground, and they’re all-but-nonexistent today.

via SamMobile


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8 replies on “If folding phones are the future, the future looks expensive”

  1. The cost of new is usually high, initially. It is like the Walkman. It was expensive when it first came out. As other companies created / manufactured similar products, the price came down. Perhaps it will too when other companies bring out similar products? Perhaps there will find a way to manufacture it at a lower cost? Perhaps spread the cost out when more of them are made?

    Perhaps it will be like when luxury cars had options that eventually were added to less expensive vehicles? I remember when powered windows was a luxury car option but now it is on (almost) every car, no matter the price of the car.

    I think it is cool. I look forward to using one in the future, or something similar.

  2. The display is a matter of production cost per mm2 and yield. Both of those can be worked on.

    And ofc phones will be foldable, the size of the display today is limited by pocket size. With foldable you can double or even triple that area.. If you have a display around 75mm wide and 166mm height, that’s about 7.2 inch diagonal in a phone that’s normal size but all display- high aspect ratio at 9 per 20.
    If you have pseudo-rollable like that Samsung patent, you can more than triple the display when extended so 166mm x let’s say 235mm an that’s some 11.3 inch diagonal with an AR that’s almost 2:3 so almost Surface Pro like size.
    And that’s the thing how long before total costs per mm2 for foldable are as low as a normal LCD high res. OLED costs more for now and yield is gonna suck at first for foldable so work is required.
    Another factor is competition. supply vs demand and how close to cost these displays are priced.

    If Samsung makes a 4.5 inch to 7.2 inch , they are mentally deranged as nobody needs that.
    If their costs for that display are very high, it simply means they haven’t sorted production out, the technology is not ready.
    More or less, in high end, the display needs to be bellow 100$ but early on, twice that might work. Bellow 50$ gets the display towards the mid range phones and at bellow 30$, even lower end can go there.
    A 55 inch open cell 4K LCD is 160$, a low res laptop display is some 25$, if your costs are hundreds of dollars for a tablet sized display, you got lots of work left to do.
    Including a quote on phone OLED “According to the OLED Display Cost Model by IHS Markit, manufacturing cost of the 5.9-inch organic light-emitting diode (OLED) panel with notch design, as in the Apple iPhone X, is estimated to be $29. It is found to be 25 percent higher than manufacturing cost of full-display OLED panel without the notch design used in the 5.8-inch display for the Samsung Galaxy S9. Similar cost gap is also found in the thin-film transistor liquid crystal display (TFT-LCD). Manufacturing cost of a 6-inch notch TFT-LCD panel is estimated to be $19, 20 percent higher than similar-sized non-notch, full-display LCD panel.”
    Note that this is cost for just the display, not price.

  3. The biggest issue I foresee for foldable screens is the creasing and wear on the section that folds. All examples I have seen have shown creasing in the area that folds. And you have got to wonder how many times you can fold it before it breaks

    1. With all the work on having no bezels, I wonder why they even bother. It would be better to just have a hinge that moves the two parts close together.

  4. One of the driving forces that might help put foldable displays on smartphones is simply that phone manufacturers have honed their flagship designs to such an extent that there’s barely anywhere left to go. Incremental improvements have been the name of the game for several iterations already — faster processors, more memory, better cameras, smaller bezels, etc — are all just refinements of well-established design fundamentals.

    It’s getting hard to shake up the marketplace when every “fondleslab” looks the same.

    So, as manufacturers figure out the best form factor for folding phones, we’ll see a wider variety of solutions come to market, but it probably won’t last that long. It’ll only take a handful of generations to iterate toward the optimal design and they’ll all start looking the same again.

    Of course, folding phones will only be successful if they bring something uniquely useful to the table. Perhaps having the option to watch movies and play games on a bigger screen that still fits in your pocket will be enough, but I suspect not. We still await their “killer app.”

  5. The research into these products will likely also apply to any form of functioning flexible display. Which will have a wider array of uses than just smartphones. Still limitations like cost will still apply. Prices will eventually go down

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