Fold that phone: Samsung releases new products, including a foldable tablet-turned-phone

DJ Koh, President and CEO of IT and Mobile Communications, holds up the new Samsung Galaxy Fold smartphone during an event Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

In recent years, the smartphone industry has been one of the most popular indicators of consumer culture in the United States. Crazy lines outside of Apple stores have contributed to some sensational videos, and the dad who needs to buy a new phone every time they increase the size of the screen has become an archetypical American. While this kind of consumerism is easy to ridicule, in part it can be attributed to the brilliance of the industry and the ways they constantly create new products, varying ever-so-slightly, but just enough to brighten the eyes of consumers as they think, “I want that.”

But when smartphones start folding, you just have to wonder if they’re running out of ideas.

Last week, Samsung unveiled four new products: Three Galaxy S10 mobile devices of varying size and cost, and a 5G Galaxy Fold handset. In other words, the Fold is a tablet that folds hamburger-style into a phone. According to BBC technology reporter David Lee, the global smartphone industry has been in a decline. This folding tech may be the innovation Samsung hopes will reverse their falling numbers.

Creative Strategies consultant Carolina Milanesi told BBC the Fold will be perfect for consumers who want a bigger screen, but don’t want the bigger screen to take away from the “phone experience.”

The 7.3 inch screen of the Fold will allow users to utilize three applications at a time. Apps like Whatsapp, Facebook, YouTube and Microsoft Office will be modified to suit this new form. Theoretically, you could use the Fold to map directions from Storrs to New York, while Google searching the best restaurants in Manhattan and checking the weather conditions in the city, all at the same time.

The handset will also come equipped with six cameras, to give you all the wide shots you need and the ability to take selfies no matter what mode you’re using the device in.

All of the new Samsung devices will have wireless charging capabilities for accompanying devices, including the new Galaxy Buds earbuds, which are exactly like AirPods, only they’re from Samsung. The Fold has two batteries, one on each side of the phone.

Some tech analysts wonder at the pitfalls of the new product: Will it be too heavy and unwieldy? Will both batteries heat up too quickly? How many times can a screen really be folded in half before it breaks?

This isn’t the first attempt at folding-screen technology. At the beginning of 2019, the smartphone company Royole had already released the FlexPai with its own bendy screen. It hasn’t reached the market Samsung is expecting of its new devices, but even Samsung can’t be sure of what kind of market to expect.

With their S9 series of smartphones, Samsung’s high prices may have scared off potential buyers, resulting in the series’ underwhelming success. Although there will be a lower-cost S10 model, Samsung is marketing the Fold as a “luxury” item, its 4G model currently priced at $1,980.

Even then, it’s still cheaper than the Chinese company Huawei’s competing product, the Mate X. Announced a week after the Galaxy Fold, the Mate is priced at $2,600. While it may have a visible crease, which hasn’t been seen with the Fold, the Mate will be sleeker and thinner.

Analysts haven’t yet made up their minds over whether or not consumers will go for this new folding technology. They have until the Fold’s release on April 6 to wager a guess. Flip-phones are our history; will folding phones be our future?


Alex Houdeshell is the associate managing editor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at alexandra.houdeshell@uconn.edu.