Samsung’s habitually delayed folding smartphone, the Galaxy X, won’t get a head start on a folding iPhone because the technology isn’t ready yet, which is bad news for Android.
My colleague David Phelan recently reported that Apple is working on a folding iPhone, which is likely to appear by 2020 according to analyst Wamsi Mohan, an analyst at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.
2020 seems both optimistically soon and quite far away. Samsung is supposedly on the cusp of launching its Galaxy X – in fact it’s been on the cusp for the last three years. With rumours, and Samsung executives, openly saying their revolutionary folding smartphone was right around the corner.
Except it’s not. A Qualcomm executive revealed to TechRadar last week that the display technology that allows OLEDs to repeatedly bend and move simply isn’t ready. Qualcomm’s Salman Saeed damningly said that phone manufacturers “haven’t really cracked the material science right now to produce electrodes that can repeatedly withstand bending and folding.”
It sounds like we’re still a scientific breakthrough away from folding displays being commercialised, which is bad news for Samsung. Mainly because Samsung – and to a larger extend Android phones in general – rely on being both cheaper and innovative alternatives to iPhones.
Now the latter isn’t always the case, of course. Apple – on occasion – out maneuvers the Android competition in some areas like Face ID, which Android phone makers won’t be able to copy for at least two years. But in general, advancements in screen technology have very much been Samsung’s bag.
But, unless Samsung has kept a major breakthrough underwraps, it looks like the Korean tech giant could lose that valuable head start. A headstart that’s needed to combat Apple’s advantages: a cult following for everything Apple and its relentless pursuit of perfection.
When it comes to the former, Apple will capture the headlines for foldable tech and – because of its rabid following and effective marketing – foldable tech could easily become synonymous with Apple. Stealing Samsung’s Next Big Thing from right under it.
For the latter, there’s a good chance Apple will simply do a better job of it, which is often the result of waiting a bit longer to adopt the latest technology.
There are also a number of screen ratio and form factor issues that need to be smartly addressed. Instantly changing the aspect ratio of the display will render some content – videos and games in particular – ugly, which might defeat the point of the concept entirely. How that’s handled will be key to success for not just each respective company, but for the concept. Smart money is on Apple coming up with some clever user experience design to crack that conundrum.
The race to be first – and by some distance – is incredibly important for foldable displays. With intelligent user experience design close behind it. If Samsung isn’t first to market, then I suspect bad news is on the horizon for the Galaxy maker.