Samsung rushing out folding smartphone to be the first to market

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This early prototype Samsung foldable phone suggests how the Galaxy X might look.
This concept folding phone is from years ago, but still suggests what Samsung may be planning.
Screenshot: Samsung

There’s a race on to introduce the world’s first folding smartphone, and Samsung appears committed to winning. The head of its mobile division says his company will unveil a foldable phone before the end of this year.

Other companies racing to introduce rival foldable devices include Huawei, Xiaomi, and Oppo. Apple is being more deliberative.

Today’s announcement comes from DJ Koh, President and CEO of Samsung’s IT & Mobile Communications Division. He told CNBC “it’s time to deliver,” after years of just talking about a folding phone.

The executive didn’t give many details about the upcoming hardware. But one of his comments makes it clear that it won’t be necessary to always unfold this mobile device. “You can use most of the uses … on foldable status. But when you need to browse or see something, then you may need to unfold it,” said Koh.

That seems to indicate this will be a dual-display device, with a smaller external screen, and then a larger one that’s revealed by opening a clamshell. An earlier unconfirmed report indicated that the internal, folding display will be 7 inches.

Later this year. Maybe.

Koh didn’t give a specific time for the announcement of its folding phone. However, he suggested that more details would be revealed at the Samsung Developer Conference scheduled for Nov. 7 and 8.

Note that this doesn’t automatically mean Samsung’s foldable smartphone will be released this year. The information that previously leaked out of the Korean company indicated that the product won’t reach customer’s hands until the first half of 2019.

A pre-announcement would let Samsung get a jump on its rivals. Huawei is reportedly also working on a folding phone, and is deliberately aiming to have it on the market before Samsung.

Both Xiaomi and Oppo are expected to have their foldable models out on 2019, but perhaps not as quickly as Samsung and Huawei.

Apple, on the other hand, is not participating in the race to be first. It’s  reportedly working on a folding iPhone, but this isn’t expected until 2020 or even 2021.