At the 2018 Samsung Developers Conference (SDC) in early November, the world’s largest smartphone maker plans to show off initial designs for a completely foldable smartphone, known as the Galaxy F. While Samsung won’t be the first company to come to market with a foldable smartphone, it will certainly be the largest and most influential. Which inevitably raises the question: Will consumers embrace the latest design iteration of the smartphone from Samsung?
Purely on novelty terms, of course, Samsung will have plenty of takers. The company’s latest smartphone launch, the Galaxy S9 (and S9+), was solid but unspectacular, and consumers are clearly looking for something new and different in order to upgrade. For example, the Galaxy S9 had the exact same design as the S8 and didn’t offer any compelling new features. It was simply a more powerful version of what customers already had, and sales have been sluggish, to say the least. In fact, analysts now project the Galaxy S9 to be the worst selling smartphone introduced by Samsung since 2012.
So, clearly, the bar is high for Samsung to come up with something truly groundbreaking. Samsung has already offered some tantalizing hints about the new Galaxy F. For example, it is expected to have two OLED screens: one that folds in half and another OLED panel on the outside. When you unfold the first OLED screen, you will have a full-sized tablet. But if you prefer just to use a smartphone, then you don’t need to unfold anything and can simply use the OLED panel on the outside.
Sounds simple enough, right? The only problem, of course, has to do with the size and dimensions of the new Galaxy F. This new smartphone is going to be near twice as thick as a regular smartphone, and that raises questions about the ease and convenience of toting it around on a daily basis. From what we already know from Samsung, the Galaxy F is supposed to be “pocketable” – but are people really going to try to fit a thick phone in their pockets? Just try walking around with a thick phone in your back pocket.
Another big issue has to do with price. It’s one thing to ask consumers to pay nearly $1,000 for a new smartphone, but it’s another thing entirely to ask consumers to pay up to $2,000 for a new smartphone. And, yet, the initial rumors are that the new Samsung Galaxy F will be twice as expensive as other new smartphones. Unless Samsung finds some way to subsidize the cost of those phones (such as by partnering with mobile providers), that inflated price tag might be a tough sell with consumers.
The 2018 SDC event, which kicks off on November 7, could provide an early first look at the popular perception of the product. If Samsung developers buy into the new foldable smartphone design, that would go a long way to paving the way for mainstream consumer adoption. Remember – when the first “phablets” came out, they were also viewed at first as a strange curiosity, but now larger screen smartphones are the norm and not the exception. That might just be the case with Samsung’s new foldable smartphones in 2019 – we will see a period of initial skepticism, followed by mainstream adoption.