Samsung recently unveiled its first-ever foldable smartphone, the upcoming Galaxy F, but one detail the company left out at the announcement event may cause some jaws to drop—the Galaxy F smartphone may sell for a price as high as $1,770.
Samsung officials showed off the Galaxy F at the Samsung Developer Conference (SDC) in San Francisco on Nov. 7, but no pricing or firm arrival date was mentioned. That changed on Nov. 12 when the Yonhap News Agency in South Korea reported that the phone will likely be announced for sale in March 2019 at a price of about two million Korean Won ($1,770), according to unnamed sources.
The Galaxy F will probably be shown at MWC 2019 in Barcelona, Spain, in February, ahead of the March launch, the sources continued. Also being unveiled by Samsung at MWC 2019 will be its Galaxy S10 smartphone, followed later by a Galaxy S10 model that will include 5G capabilities, according to Yonhap's sources. The new foldable phone won't have 5G support, the story continued.
At the SDC event, Samsung President and CEO Koh Dong-jin, who is also president of the company's IT and mobile device business, said that the foldable smartphone will be released globally in the first half of 2019, starting with the shipment of about 1 million devices.
The Galaxy F features a 4.6-inch outer display like a normal smartphone, which transforms into a 7.4-inch screen when the two halves of the device are unfolded side by side. Samsung calls its foldable screen an Infinity Flex Display.
Foldable phones have been an ongoing topic for a year or more in the IT industry, with Samsung and Apple brands being mentioned most often as companies eyeing such phones.
Avi Greengart, a mobile device analyst for GlobalData who was at the SDC event, told eWEEK that since Samsung has been talking about foldable phones for a while, the details about pricing, features and availability are really the most important topics about the devices for potential buyers.
"Samsung is hoping that the flexible phone will become a new premium category, and its display division is undoubtedly hoping to recoup some of the years of R&D investment it took for them to develop it," said Greengart.
At the SDC event, Samsung provided guidelines to developers for creating apps that will work properly on folding phones, he said.
In addition, Greengart said that when Samsung officially unveils its Galaxy S10 handsets early next year, he fully expects the company to offer 5G versions tuned for each of the major U.S. carriers. "Samsung has always been an early adopter of new networking technology," he said.
Tuong H. Nguyen, a mobile device analyst for Gartner, said he expects the demand for the foldable phone will be limited for several reasons, including the rumored high price. "Having this type of tech leadership in form factors and displays is interesting, but is not very compelling for most consumers yet," he said. "[The foldable display] seems like introducing technology for its own sake, rather than providing significant or irresistible value to the consumer."
What makes more sense for Samsung are its plans, disclosed in September, to overhaul its smartphone strategy by offering more midpriced models aimed at Millennials, said Nguyen. "I'm hoping to see much more of this," he added. "That would be much more exciting news for a number of reasons," including an increase in value for the midtier as well as a great way to grow market share and mind share on the broader market, said Nguyen.
"Ideally, I'd like to see innovation peppered throughout a number of midtier devices; but we'll see what happens," he said. "It would also be interesting because it might shift the conversation, or maybe split it away from flagship [devices]."
Another analyst, Patrick Moorhead, principal of Moor Insights & Strategy, said for users the main benefit of a foldable display is that it can provide a larger display when using the device while still allowing it to be small enough to carry in a pocket, purse or coat.
"I am very excited to see devices Samsung can enable with its Infinity Flex Display," said Moorhead. "The smartphone business is getting a bit stale and needs something new to breathe life into it. It won’t be easy to create a high-quality and valuable experience, but I think Samsung can do it."