After years of rumours, hushed whispers from the R&D department, and cryptic hints from company executives, Samsung has finally taken the wraps off its all-new foldable smartphone, unofficially dubbed Galaxy X. Well, sort of.
Although we got a good look at the Infinity Flex Display that powers the folding smartphone, we didn't see a whole lot else. That's because Samsung intentionally “disguised” the handset during its developer conference, and dimmed the lights during the demonstration to protect elements of the design.
“There’s a device inside here,” said Justin Denison, Senior Vice President of Mobile Product Marketing for the South Korean firm. “And it is stunning.”
- Samsung Galaxy X: first official look at the folding Samsung phone
- Samsung Galaxy Infinity Flex: everything you need to know
But while the smartphone beneath the disguise might well be stunning, what we saw on-stage was not. The foldable handset demoed infront of the audience looked really ugly – with sharp, boxy corners and a chunky frame.
It'll be interesting to see whether Samsung keeps the same design language used on its latest Galaxy S and Galaxy Note handsets, including the curved sides, centred rear-mounted camera and curved edges of the display.
The so-called Galaxy X will have two displays. One on the cover that acts like a typical smartphone, and a main 7.3-inch tablet display that has to be unfolded before use.
Samsung's all-new Android skin, known as One UI, will let you run up to three apps simultaneously on the 7.3-inch display, something it calls "multi active window".
Apps that are running on the smaller 4.6-inch cover display when users unfold the larger tablet display will appear on the bigger screen in the same state you left them.
Updated software will expand to take full advantage of the larger display. For example, news aggregate Flipboard expanded from a single column view on the 4.6-inch display, to three columns when viewed on the 7.3-inch screen. Developers will have to update their software to take advantage of the changing display sizes.
.@Flipboard is working on an app for @Samsung’s new foldable phone. When closed, you’d see a single pane of info. When you unfold the phone, you get a bigger panel (right where you left off on the closed display) and multiwindows #SDC18 pic.twitter.com/08PiAUvY3INovember 7, 2018
Google made an appearance during the Samsung developer conference to confirm that it will be adding native support within Android for folding displays.
And that was about it.
Samsung didn't reveal the final design, and kept schtum about the price. Samsung Senior Vice Present Justin Denison did reveal that the company is ready to kickstart mass production of the Infinity Flex Display in a “matter of months," which suggests the release date might not be far at all.
Here's everything we expect from the finished Galaxy X when it eventually emerges…
1. Samsung Galaxy X with One UI
Given that Samsung was one of the first Android manufacturers to really push the ability to run two apps side-by-side, it was no surprise when the company unveiled plans to run three apps simultaneously on the Galaxy X's 7.3-inch folding display.
After all, the South Korean company needs to justify why you need to carry a smartphone with a second, larger screen folded away on the inside.
Now, we want to see just how well the operating system manages to switch between its smartphone and tablet mode. While Android OS supports both smartphone and tablet devices, it hasn't faired well in the past with handsets that liberally switch between the two form factors. Sony tried it years ago and the results were not widely deemed a success.
Thankfully, Google says it's onbaord with "foldables" and will update Android OS to support this new breed of smartphone. So fingers crossed, that should ensure a smooth experience. Whether all the apps you use in your day-to-day life are updated to take full advantage of the switching screen sizes remains to be seen, but if the glacial pace of updates to our banking app is anything to go by – it might be a while.
You can rewatch the full keynote below.
2. Samsung Galaxy X hardware
Aside from the software challenges associated with this new breed of handset, we'd also hoped to see a glimpse of what the Galaxy X actually looks like.
Ahead of the keynote Reuters reported that Samsung was preparing to share a number of "detailed images" of the next-generation smartphone on stage. Well, it didn't. But we did get this –
After months of concept images and patent illustrations circulating online, it was great to see something a little more concrete from the company.
However, we can't pretend we weren't a little miffed that Samsung decided to disguise its next-generation smartphone. Leaks around the Galaxy S10 could well provide a clue about the industrial design of the new handset.
What we did learn was that Galaxy X has a large 7.3-inch screen folded away on the 'inside', and another 4.6-inch display on the outside.
The latter has a 21:9 aspect ratio and a resolution of 840×1960 pixels, which translates to 420 pixels-per-inch. Meanwhile, the main event carries a resolution of 1536×2152 pixels, which works out as the same pixel density as the 4.6-inch outer display.
It was also evident that there was no visible hinge or other gap messing up the middle of the screen when unfolded.
3. Samsung Galaxy X availability
All the rumours pointed to the Galaxy X launching next year, but with One UI only rolling out in Beta early next year, that no longer seems likely. That's despite the fact that Samsung has long hinted its first foldable handset might be officially announced on-stage at either CES 2019 in early January, or MWC 2019 in late February.
If the last few years are anything to go by, Samsung typically unveils its new Galaxy S smartphones during a press conference at MWC 2019, so it would make sense for the foldable device to appear at the same time.
Reliable Twitter tipster Ice Universe, for one, firmly believed the phone would be coming in January. That seemed odd, given that a Galaxy X announcement in January would surely make the Galaxy S10 look supremely underwhelming should it launch the following month at MWC. It now seems impossible.
Given how popular the Galaxy X looks set to be popular with first-adopter smartphone enthusiasts, you're going to have to be very fast when pre-orders for the Galaxy X finally go live online, but it won't be in early 2019, and might not be in 2019 at all, even though that's what we all want.
4. Samsung Galaxy X specs
According to the latest rumours, the Galaxy X will be powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 845, paired with 6GB of RAM and 256GB of inbuilt storage. Given its track record, we'd expect Samsung to include the ability to increase the storage via microSD card, too.
Since the finalised Galaxy X design includes two separate OLED displays, we'll bet top dollar that Samsung is concerned about the impact on battery life. As such, it's highly likely the Galaxy X will boast a large battery cell to keep the device lasting all-day.
5. Samsung Galaxy X UK price
We'd love to know what the price of the Galaxy X will be when it launches in stores worldwide next year.
While the rumours around the Galaxy X price are a little uncertain, one thing is for certain – this is going to be a very expensive gadget. Considering this will be the first foldable handset from Samsung, the price isn't likely to be cheap.
The current rumoured cost is a cool £1,365 or $1,775 – that's the current exchange rate for 2 million won, which is the mooted Korean price. Given the maxed-out Galaxy Note 9 already costs £1,099 ($1,249.99) – and that only has one screen – the upcoming folding smartphone will likely carry a hefty price tag.
Californian technology firm Royole recently launched a folding phone, which has a single OLED screen – not the two widely-tipped to be coming to the Galaxy X, and that still topped £999 ($1,300).
If you want the coolest smartphone of 2019, you'd better start saving for it.