The wait for smartphones that transform into tablets is nearing its end. Foldable OLED panels were mentioned three times in the fourth quarter earnings report Samsung released earlier today, as the company claims foldable phones will help drive its growth in 2018.
“The OLED panel business will strengthen its competitiveness in the premium segment with the release of foldable panels,” it said. “As for the Mobile business, Samsung will continue its efforts to differentiate its smartphones by adopting cutting-edge technologies, such as foldable OLED displays.”
Samsung has been hyping a phone that folds into a tablet for years. We first got a sneak peek at what a foldable Galaxy device might look like in a concept video at CES 2013. Five years later and the concept device is still all we have to go by.
As exciting as a phone/tablet hybrid may sound, there’s still plenty of reason to believe the radical concept will be pushed back further. In 2015, a Samsung official told Business Korea, “The industry believes that the commercialization of foldable smartphones will be possible in 2016.” Two years later, reports from the Korea Herald claimed it was “highly likely” that Samsung would release 100,000 units by Q3 of 2017. We’re now into 2018 and all rumors point to the forthcoming unveiling of an inflexible Galaxy S9.
If a foldable phone does arrive this year, it will likely be a version of the upcoming Galaxy Note 9. Last year, Samsung’s mobile lead Dongjin Koh said the company was scheduled to launch a foldable smartphone in 2018 as part of the Galaxy Note line. However, he warned that there are hurdles to overcome that could push the phone’s release back even further.
Despite the Note 7 fiasco and bribery scandal, Samsung has some financial leeway to experiment with after reporting an operating profit of KRW53.65 trillion ($14.24 billion) and KRW239.58 trillion for 2017, both of which are company records.