Samsung is making foldable screens cool again, and I’m excited

Samsung is making foldable screens cool again, and I’m excited

Samsung is making foldable screens cool again, and I’m excited

Are foldable phones and tablets cool again? This is due to Samsung, LG, TCL and the other device manufacturers.

But after seeing the Samsung Flex Hybridthat works and slides, This week at CES 2023, I’m starting to get excited again about cutting-edge technology that has yet to seriously catch on. While the concept model remained in the hands of a Samsung employee, seeing it myself renewed my hope in the possibilities we have yet to explore with screens that fold, flex, slide and roll.

Continue reading: Check out our CES 2023 live blog Must-See Revelations, most futuristic tech and craziest gadgets.

As someone who has used a number of these early devices from Samsung, Motorola, oppo and others, I admit a bit disillusioned with the appeal of foldables in recent years. The Flex Hybrid and other prototypes from Samsung’s display division may have changed that.

There have been slideables, foldables, and even some devices that used multiple technologies, and any of these may appear in the not-too-distant future. The Flex Hybrid is a foldable tablet with an additional display that can be pulled out, with the demo showing an example of watching a football match using the full tablet screen before the additional display is pulled out to show stats and other information.

Other prototype models, like the Flex S, fold multiple times, giving you a smartphone-sized screen when closed and a large tablet when open. That is something straight out of HBO’s Westworld.

Samsung Display Flex S prototypes

Samsung Display’s Flex S looks like a tablet display straight out of HBO’s Westworld.

David Katzmaier/CNET

The new displays appear to bring to life the foldable era, which got off to a rocky start Genuine Samsung Galaxy Fold with well documented issues in 2019. Successor models like the youngest Z flip 4 and Z fold 4 have shown a lot of promise and panache, but none has caught on, despite these being pretty excellent devices – we’re talking about 1.1% of the global smartphone foldable market share, according to research firm IDC.

Still, the appeal of foldable devices among buyers is growing as prices begin to come down and improvements are made, with IDC expecting foldable phone shipments to reach 41.5 million units in 2026, up from 13.5 million units in 2022.

Again, these prototypes are not intended as finished products, but as demonstrations of the technology the company has been working on. It’s also being developed by Samsung Display, which is a separate part of Samsung than the Samsung Electronics unit, which produces and sells phones, tablets, computers, TVs, and other electronics (although the two also work together).

Samsung Display is a supplier, and its screens can be found in a variety of products not made by the South Korean tech giant. So while Samsung is making the screens, it’s very possible that another company will release some of them.

“These are all prototypes, of course, concept devices,” says John Jacobs, vice president of sales and marketing at Samsung Display. “We’re not going to go out and build millions [of these displays] until we have customers.” Jacobs hopes those customers, from phone or PC companies to automakers looking for screens for their upcoming cars, will see the concepts and get inspired.

“That’s what we want to do here, which is to help, if you will… enable creativity and imagination.”

The onus is on other companies to take those screens and build working products around them. While Samsung is demonstrating the technology at CES, it didn’t let media-goers pick up and use the prototypes themselves. Instead, the company had employees editing the demos.

But unlike so many products and concepts at CES, Samsung seems poised for these displays to take the next step towards a real product. In fact, Jacobs doesn’t think we’ll have to wait too long.

“I believe [in] In 2024, especially multifold devices, a lot more will be possible.”

Samsung and others still have a lot of work to do to get us there, but I can’t wait.

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