back to article Samsung 'reveals' what looks like a tablet that folds into a phone, but otherwise we're quite literally left in the dark

New products are traditionally developed in darkness – but rarely launched in darkness too. Samsung yesterday turned the auditorium lights way down before "revealing" its first Foldable Thing. This Foldable Thing was brandished in a Samsung executive's hand – some distance from spectators. And you couldn't get any nearer. That …

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Just open it enough times and the display will start to degrade...

Nah. I'll rather have a device that is not bendable. Sad truth is that bending devices will replace everything just because it can break and need to be replaced.

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JDX
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Jeez ASAC I bet they never thought of that. They definitely wouldn't destruct test this very aspect of the device knowing it was really difficult to build, and something people would be concerned about. It's not like the entire reason these devices are taking so long to develop is because of that very issue.

I expect they'll want to head-hunt you for more cutting-edge insight.

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FAIL

Lets just hang on there.

@JDX.

The awesome destruct testing at Samsung you suggest might be happening brought us the exploding NOTE 7. So lets hold your the sarcasm until they hit the shelves and then start to degrade.

This top class testing also includes recalls for microwaves, washing machines and fridges.

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Just open it enough times and the display will start to degrade...

Given that Samsung is an industrial conglomerate with a small consumer electronics business, I think they might be aware of that and have done the tests. In fact the presentation goes into that including needing a new adhesive to cope with the folding.

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You're folding it wrong!?

/I'll grab my coat

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How they test matters

They aren't giving them to people to fold and unfold thousands of times. They are having it done by robots, which do it exactly the same way every time. In the real world, sometimes you slam it shut and sometimes you carefully close it, sometimes you torque it a bit to one side while pulling it open, it sits in your pocket and gets squeezed (perhaps a lot, given how thick that thing would be when folded)

So no, having a robot fold it 100,000 times would not make me feel confident it will be fine in the real world.

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Flame

Re: How they test matters

Also, it only has to survive the folding and unfolding long enough for the warranty period to be over. Then when it breaks, it is the opposite of their problem.

Like most things today, it is designed to be sold, not to be used.

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Re: How they test matters

Actually, you can program testing robots to cycle through all of those modes and more. Will Samsung? No idea. But just because you can't conceive of it, don't say it won't or can't happen.

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Re: How they test matters

@DougS – no shit Sherlock. But, again, this is something that the company understands well. There are bound to be issues with the screens, temperature is particularly likely to be a problem, but I'd expect the mechanical stuff to be well understood and appropriately tested. Unlike, say, the antenna problems of a certain rival phone maker when it decided that an aluminium cage was the best thing to put a radio in, because it was so beautiful.

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Re: How they test matters

This sounds a lot like Apple and their extremely comprehensive handling tests done on the iPhone X, which because it was so super-secret all had to be done indoors in controlled conditions. Conditions which included making sure the hands of the test users were always dry, not-slippery and not likely to fail to get a grip on an all-glass extremely slippery and extremely impact-sensitive expensive shiny thing.

Which stole the crown of most expensive thing commonly dropped and broken from the likes of Samsung and Faberge et al.

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Is this a joke? It must be a joke...

Actually, an actual folding-screen tablone (what?!? "phablet" was already taken!) would scratch a very old itch of mine - it could conceivably stand in for a full landscape qwerty keyboard and a screen, even if not quite as comfortable to type on as a true mechanical keyboard.

Samsung though does deserve all the scorn in the world and more - after demoing flexible screens for years and years without producing any actual device, they finally announce having perfected... the concept of a flexible screen, without any actual device?!? Burn in hell motherfuckers, you deserve to be last in the race to produce a flexible commercial product, with some of the other players now snapping at your heels. "Hold on, I'm the first to come out with a foldable phone... no wait I'm not but honest guv I'm nearly there so it still counts!" is not a valid excuse. Baka Chaebol.

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Stop

Re: Is this a joke? It must be a joke...

Nurse!?!?!

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Re: Is this a joke? It must be a joke...

Watch the presentation (about 1:22 in) because it is quite interesting. Flexible displays are hard™ and a lot of the technologies and materials that we hoped could be used have failed to deliver. Yes, it's important to see what is actually available and at what cost but mass production is due to start over the "next few months".

Personally, I think the technology could really be revolutionary but as to whether it will be Samsung that makes the most of it, well, that's another question, because I'm sure we will see a slew of interesting but ultimately useless designs.

The presentations, however, are worth watching. While "One UI" looks like an admission that Samsung fucked up UX for years, it also shows that they've finally started thinking about the users. Basically the biggest indication so far that Samsung has a coherent strategy for breaking out of the consumer electronics follower segment.

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Re: Is this a joke? It must be a joke...

" mass production is due to start over the "next few months"."

Are you basing that on the claims in the sales pitch? If so, you might be forgetting that you can't rely on anything said in those things, particularly claims along the lines of "we're beginning production soon".

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Go

Use cases

Cool games, of course. One where you have to get a ball into a hole by bending the display to get it to roll up and down hill. (I haven't thought out the details.)

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Re: Use cases

The modern equivalent of those shatterproof rulers that a generation of school children broke into two pieces by bending all the time.

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Coat

Re: Use cases

Cool games, of course. One where you have to get a ball into a hole by bending the display to get it to roll up and down hill. (I haven't thought out the details.)

Clearly. You used the Go icon. That's a completely different game...

(Coat, getting, gone!)

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Re: Use cases

In fairness those rulers snapped cleanly in two rather than shattered in a million splinters so they held up quite well to the boast (liquid nitrogen is required to properly shatter them.... As I was told by an old friend with access to the stuff for putting bearings into planes)

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Re: Use cases

Actually, I think there's already a game of that style. It's based on the old "marble box maze" with the plate that could be tilted forward/back left/right using twisty knobs, the result being that the marble would then roll down various tracks, & if you did it wrong then the marble fell down a hole & you had to start over.

The Android game did the same thing but used the tilt sensor to mimic the knob action (narf narf!) & roll a virtual marble around the screen.

Otherwise the bendy screen version could make the game even more difficult by adding a 3D version that required manipulating your balls (naaaarf!) on one side of the bend for the horizontal and on the other side for the vertical.

I'll get my coat, it's the one with the pockets full of marbles. =-)p

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Re: Use cases

It came on the early HTC phones, I had it on my Hero.

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Re: Use cases

Taking them down to -30ºC in an environmental chamber and then bending them is much more satisfying. Nice jigsaw puzzle of shattered unbreakable plastic ruler. If you could find all the bits...

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Now wait for its Second Coming

Isn't the Church of the Surface Phone waiting for a rapture caused by a device exactly like that?

https://www.digitaltrends.com/computing/microsoft-surface-mobile-phone-news/

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Perhaps a really low contrast screen that isn't demo-able in normal lighting then? Hence why no-one was allowed to look too closely.

Probably forced to demo it early after that other foldable phone was announced recently.

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Possibly, but I also think that something like this, which is yet ready for market, is also about keeping the competition in the dark until you have all the IP (materials, process, etc.) needed to make it safely registered.

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Boffin

Just possibly... the main feature of this device is the screen, so by dimming the lights the rest of the device disappears and people can only focus on the (illuminated) screen.

Trivialities, such as colour, that certain other publications would focus on, are for later. Focus on the screen for now.

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I tried...

Focus on the screen for now.

But I couldn't see it too clearly.

Maybe if I could stand abit closer to it?

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This

This did little to dispel the idea that foldable displays are a solution looking for a problem

I suppose if your already-ludicrously-oversized phablet still isn't big enough for you, one that folds out to twice the size might be just what you need; it would be big enough to hide your face behind if you're feeling embarrassed. But it seems like pure gimmickery (gimmickry?) at this point, I have yet to see a compelling use-case for such a device. Of course, seeing one up close in a well-lit room to figure out its actual capabilities and limitations might help with that...

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Re: This

If you unfold a rectangle, you're going to get something that looks squarish. Is that a useful aspect ratio, even if you divide the screen up into different specialied areas?

And if you divide the screen up into different areas, why not just have several screens?

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Re: This

If you unfold a rectangle, you're going to get something that looks squarish.

Well the obvious thing is to use the same aspect ratio as A[n] paper. Which isn't the same as people's pockets.

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Re: This

"If you unfold a rectangle, you're going to get something that looks squarish"

If the folding technology works and can be applied to a tight enough curve (and hence to a narrow enough device), you could have multiple folds. for example a device with 6:9 ratio with a fold at each end would fold out to 18:9 tablet. With phones nowadays getting thinner than 7mm, the fully folded device would be less than 2cm thick, just like old dumbphones and, incidentally, much more comfortable to hold in the hand for use as a phone.

The bigger tech question isn't so much as to how it can fold as to whether it manages to consistently unfold to a totally flat position without leaving a very slight angle

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Windows

Re: This

I'm old enough to remember when we looked at things with a squarish aspect ratio, it was called a cathode ray tube, or CRT for short. Boy we were very pleased with those for donkeys years, and I miss 'em

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Anonymous Coward

Re: This

"I suppose if your already-ludicrously-oversized phablet still isn't big enough for you, one that folds out to twice the size might be just what you need; it would be big enough to hide your face behind if you're feeling embarrassed. "

considering the number of ipads you see people wandering about with, phablets are too small...for some..

this is about form and ease of carrying..no need to be ashamed of your small one...

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Re: This

"If you unfold a rectangle, you're going to get something that looks squarish. Is that a useful aspect ratio, even if you divide the screen up into different specialied areas?"

didn't stop 4:3 ipads for a very long time...

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Re: This

"Boy we were very pleased with those for donkeys years, and I miss 'em"

The radiation, the magnetic field from the degaussing coil, the enormous weight, or the fragility?

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Re: This

I'm old enough to remember when we looked at things with a squarish aspect ratio

Actually, so am I. And there are obviously still quite a few people still content without colour, but having a form factor that's different to most modern content (unless you count mobile phone clips shot vertically) is likely to go down less well with the modern teeny-boppers and the producers of moving picture promotions for popular beat combos, I would have thought.

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Re: This

Actually mobile phones have moved towards a 2:1 aspect ratio because it makes reading websites easier (less scrolling required) given that the chief limiting factor is the *width* of a phone. Video playback isn't the only concern for most phone users. However, video playback is likely the main use for cheap n cheerful Android 16:9 tablets.

When the limitation of fitting in a trouser pocket is removed, we have the 4:3 iPad mini (jacket pocket or handbag) or iPad (coffee table).

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Re: This

Nope.. Having a particle accelerorator on my desktop was what did it for me.

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Re: This

The problem with the ~ 4:3 ratio this will have unfolded is that most people like bigger screens for watching videos. They'd probably be better off having it be basically a square when folded which is fine for using it as a phone or texting someone.

I've always said though that for a folding phone to really take off it'll need to be a trifold device to get the ratios right. That will mean something a LOT thinner. This thing would be REALLY thick when folded, though they might not have showed the real device that goes on sale. If this is what goes on sale, it isn't going to sell much.

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Re: This

@Warm Braw: "still quite a few people still content without colour,"

So that story got us talking in the office yesterday, given there's no analogue signal any more. A bit of googling shows that external Digital Receivers can still be bought with RF outputs so it's technically feasible to receive a digital signal and pipe it out to an old telly, but the then the picture will be Pillar Boxed(or side cropped, depending on the chosen aspect ratio in the set top box) and then the EPG would be unusable. I guess those that are happy to watch B&W are probably still happy to flick through 'The Radio Times' for such info I guess. It seems like a lot of effort to go to, to save a few quid, getting sub par results, when a modern colour LED TV would use a lot less leccy.

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Re: This

Which isn't the same as people's pockets.

Pockets have a standard aspect ratio?

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Re: This

And if you divide the screen up into different areas, why not just have several screens?

Well, it would seem most users of the ironically named Windows would agree with you even if I don't.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: This

"Nope.. Having a particle accelerorator on my desktop was what did it for me."

When I visited the Diamond Light Source* earlier this year, I did wonder if I could build my own using parts from an old TV and a vacuum pump....

*Well worth a visit on the few days it's open to the public - note that you have to enter a ballot for tickets to visit, you can't just turn up.

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Re: This

"the degaussing coil"

Ahh, the degaussing coil. I think the unique buzz of that rivals the negotiation sounds of 56k modems for inducing instant nostalgia in me.

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I'd go for one

I think a bigger screen could be useful & I'm sure they've bent enough to not be caught out by that. Thinking they just had to announce something after Royole stole their thunder ...

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Re: I'd go for one

They stole Samsung's thunder with a ridiculously terrible folding phone, yes. There's still room for a proper one, but based on specs alone Samsung's isn't it. A 7.3" screen is hardly bigger than the 6.5" screens common in large phones today. OK, given its aspect ratio it probably has 75% more screen area when unfolded but it isn't 16:9 so it won't be useful for watching videos or gaming - the two primary reasons most people would want a larger screen!

Curious, if you want one, what would you do with the bigger screen? You don't see an aspect ratio nowhere near 16:9 as a problem for your intended use? You don't see having it be much thicker/heavier as being a problem? You'd be willing to pay the rumored $1500 price to be an early adopter of this turkey?

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Not phones but foldable tablets or laptops, even desktop monitors would seem like a more sensible use of the technology.

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@James51, they'll get there, give them chance.

They'll want a grand or more for this surely, think what they'd price something that folds out to 24 or 27 for monitors, or 40" for TVs.

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Due to difficult of producing large OLED panels, Samsung has retreated from pushing them for monitors so I wouldn't expect to see them pushing the folding screens there soon. Assuming they can make the panels then I suspect they will initiialy all go to phones for the time being: think of the price of a TV 55" that would equate to the number of S9s that can be made from the same OLED panel.

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What exactly would be the advantage of a foldable or roll-up desktop monitor be?

I can just about envisage a laptop based on this model - a flexible display would mean a 13" 16:10 laptop could fit in a jacket pocket (albeit an easy target for a pickpocket).

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