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A big step for Samsung, a small one for humanity

A big step for Samsung, a small one for humanity

The South Korean group is the first major manufacturer to present a foldable smartphone – and at the same time shows how difficult innovations are in the exhausted mobile industry.

The whole world was able to be there via livestream yesterday evening: Samsung presented the eagerly awaited foldable smartphone at its developer conference in San Francisco. The device has two displays: a small one on the front and a twice as large one that can be used after unfolding. According to Samsung, up to three apps can be operated on this at the same time. Combined, Samsung offers a compact mobile phone with a conventional 4.6-inch display, which can also be used as a tablet with a 7.3-inch diagonal for multitasking or multimedia content – the “best of both worlds”, as Samsung puts it calls it “a groundbreaking new development for the smartphone”.

What Samsung manager Justin Denison showed in San Francisco is initially just a prototype, about which not much is known yet. The production of the smartphone, which may come under the name Galaxy F, should start in the coming months.

Samsung’s foldable Infinity Flex display is intended to solve a fundamental problem of mobile devices: Small devices fit well in your pocket, but only offer a small display. And smartphones with lush looks are bulkier – the size of the device limits the size of the screen. Over the past few years, manufacturers have repeatedly brought different sizes onto the market so that the customer can choose the optimal compromise between wearing comfort and display size. But the basic dilemma remained.

The Infinity Flexi Display principle: When folded out, the smartphone offers twice the display size

In this respect, Samsung has achieved a masterpiece with the “Foldable” – the development was a major technical challenge in particular. Experts are therefore very excited about the detailed design of the hardware. Denison largely covered the prototype during the presentation so that not much could be seen yet.

At the same time, however, it is questionable whether the innovation from the South Koreans will actually herald a new era in smartphone use – or whether it will remain a gimmick. Do consumers really want flexibility in terms of display size so badly that they are ready to buy a new device again for a price that is certainly not cheap? After all, the smartphone with Flex technology is becoming more complex and more susceptible to failure. In addition, although it offers more display in a smaller size, it is still thicker and therefore heavier. The “foldable” should therefore be a risk for Samsung.

But a risk that the South Koreans have to take. Smartphone sales are declining worldwide: the market research institute IDC has just calculated a decrease of six percent for the first three quarters of 2018 compared to the same period of the previous year. This is not least due to the fact that the new models always bring technical advances, but no really decisive innovations. Samsung has equipped its Galaxy A9 with a quadruple camera that allows recordings at a very wide angle. What is the next step? A fivefold camera? In business terms: the marginal utility of product improvements decreases. Nevertheless, of course, the manufacturers have no choice but to keep investing in innovations.

In a current TV commercial, Samsung explains the advantages of the Galaxy A9 with the quadruple camera

Samsung is particularly under pressure: According to IDC, smartphone sales by the South Koreans fell by 13.4 percent in the first three quarters of 2018. With a share of 20.3 percent, they are market leaders, but the gap between them and competitors Huawei (sales plus 32.9 percent, market share 14.6 percent) and Apple (sales plus 0.5 percent, market share 13.2 percent) is shrinking However.