The Samsung folding smartphone: a challenge for Apple

Furthermore, the owner only folds the folded and flexible display. The software view skips seamlessly seamlessly in full-screen mode. The user browses through the articles, enlarges sections of digital maps or enlarges the scenes of a video game.

Market leader Samsung unveiled its folding display prototype at its developer conference in San Francisco for the first time and is convinced of the device's global appeal: "We are entering a new era of innovation and invention," said DJ Koh, President and CEO of Samsung Electronics. cell division.

The South Korean company, which manufactures every five smartphones sold around the world, is under pressure. Like Apple, he fought for years against the end of the boom and new rivals from the Far East. The Chinese manufacturers Huawei and Xiaomi conquer increasing shares in the mobile market and attract low prices. The most innovative thing about Apple's bestselling iPhone has been its rising price for years.

Industry experts see the flexible display as an opportunity for Samsung to stand out from its monotonous competition devices. The folding phone could be "more than a gimmick," says Gartner Werner Goertz analyst.

But the chances of success are difficult to predict. "If it's a stylish, eye-catching device, it will be a magnet for gadget fans," says Ben Wood, an analyst with UK market researcher CCS Insight. "If it is rough and difficult to use, it will hardly sell".

After the presentation it is clear that "Infinity Flex Display" contains two devices in one: a 4.58-inch smartphone and a 7.3-inch tablet. Up to three apps have space on the big screen at the same time. However: numerous technical details of the Kink mobile phone remained unclear at the start.

However, mass production will start "in the next few months", says Samsung. The device is available from next year. When exactly, under what name or at what price, however, it is not yet determined.

The prototype of the new device is intended to maintain competition, which attracts customers at lower prices, at a distance. "Samsung is still the undisputed leader in the smartphone business," says Thomas Husson of Forrester.

But the rivals arrive. In the third quarter, the South Koreans reached 20.3% of global mobile phone sales, according to the IDC data company, followed by the Huawei group with 14.6%, whose smartphone sales increased by 32%.

Apple, which only reaches a 13.2% share, has already been replaced by the Chinese as the second smartphone provider. Now Huawei is "on track to push Samsung in first place", says Werner Goertz, research director at Gartner.

Samsung had announced a flexible display several times. But many questions remain unanswered – especially: do customers even want a fold-up phone when they have to pay more?

"The answer lies in the software, especially in artificial intelligence applications," says Goertz. Basically, the Samsung programmer community brings interesting apps to the node display. "Technology has to offer real benefits for the daily life of the user," says Horron of Forrester.

But with the development of its mobile operating system, Samsung has always had difficulty. Therefore, the Google Android platform is traditionally used on mobile devices. Google also wants to support the new format.

Android developers should not write their own programs from scratch for the collapsible smartphone, but they can customize the apps with some changes in the code, says Adrian Roos, senior developer at Google. How it works in practice, but has yet to show.

Samsung fights like the competition against the heels that fall quickly. According to Strategy Analytics, global smartphone sales amounted to 8% by the end of September. This is a decline for the fourth consecutive quarter.

But the South Koreans lose above the industry average. According to US data companies IDC and Strategy Analytics, sales of Samsung mobile phones decreased by 13% last quarter, down 10% in the second and 2% in the first quarter.

The trend is difficult to reverse. Smartphone demand in the most profitable US and European markets is considered saturated. For 2019, ICD only expects a three percent growth in global mobile phone sales. Apple only decided last week, Wall Street on the sales figures of iPhone, iPad and Mac in the dark in the future, fearing negative news. Samsung also does not publish the corresponding data.

Companies continue to make big profits in the mobile phone industry. Apple, which accounts for two-thirds of the group's revenue from iPhone sales, was the first company in the history of the economy to reach $ 1 billion at the start of August.

Never before has the group requested as much for a device as today. In the fourth quarter, the price for the iPhone rose from $ 724 to $ 793, much more than the same quarter last year, when it was $ 618.

But innovation jumps from one device to another, they are increasingly marginal and barely visible to the average consumer: the screens get bigger, the processors get faster, the OLED screens are brighter. There are also applications such as facial recognition. But the boom of ordinary smartphones is over.

The next new thing?

The sector is waiting for the next news. Will the Samsung folding device turn the market? At the moment, information on the premium product is poor at best. For a few moments, manager Samsung Justin Denison shows the folding phone on a darkened stage, surrounded by a camouflage cover. He opens it briefly, before he makes it disappear again in his suit pocket.

Instead of important key figures, Samsung presents above all promises. As a result, the foldable smartphone should not be thicker than previous models. The material for the multi-layered display is 45 percent thinner than the technology used so far and contains hundreds of thousands of sticks.

Experts such as Goertz, an expert at Gartner, believe that the folding display through the polymer structure is "flexible and robust at the same time, without risk of breakage or deformation".

The speed at which the new Samsung device is placed on the market could be crucial to success. South Koreans are far from the only ones who develop a flexible exhibition. Huawei also wants to show media reports next year, a flexible smartphone.

Lenovo and Xiaomi are talking to their prototypes, and LG is working on a flexible OLED display and TV that can be rolled up. The Chinese start-up Royole showed in San Francisco just one day before Samsung a folding display with a 7.8-inch screen.

So Samsung rushes to create facts. As important as hardware, South Koreans want to bring associated software in the future. Following Apple's example, the manufacturer is working on a service ecosystem. An important role will be played by Bixby, the Samsung platform for intelligent voice control and artificial intelligence (AI).

Bixby will move on each of the 500 million devices sold by Samsung every year, announces Eui Suk Chung, Samsung's AI manager, from new folding smartphones to networked refrigerators.


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