Samsung unveils foldable phone prototype

The South Korean tech company unveiled its new Infinity Flex display and other product upgrades at a developers conference on Wednesday.

  • Samsung has been developing a flexible, foldable smartphone for years.
  • The prototype unveiled Wednesday isn't quite the finished product some had hoped to see, but it offered a glimpse at how its long-awaited foldable phone will work when released, likely in 2019.
  • Samsung also announced other device upgrades, including a new user interface and changes to its virtual assistant Bixby.

Samsung unveiled a prototype of its new flexible display and other product upgrades at its annual developers conference in San Francisco on Wednesday.

The South Korean tech giant didn't introduce a finished foldable smartphone, despite recent rumors, but Samsung did briefly display a prototype device with the company's new Infinity Flex display, along with several other displays that will be available soon: the Infinity U, V and O displays.

The foldable prototype is, essentially, a tablet when open and a regular smartphone when folded. It features an exterior display on which users can make calls and use apps when the device is folded, as well as a larger 7.3-inch display that can be used when the phone is opened up.

It's designed to be folded and unfolded repeatedly hundreds of thousands of times without any degradation, said Justin Denison, Samsung's senior vice president of mobile product marketing. He added that Samsung will be ready to start mass production of the Infinity Flex display in coming months.

In a seemingly choreographed announcement at Android Developer Summit on Wednesday, Google said it would begin offering a new "Foldables" support category for Android devices. Dave Burke, Google's vice president of engineering, said Google is "enhancing Android to take advantage of this new form factor with as little work as necessary."

On Tuesday, a little-known company called Royole released a foldable smartphone, dubbed the FlexPai. The developer model of the phone is on sale for $1,318.

Bixby, Galaxy Home and other announcements

Samsung also announced several upcoming updates to its devices and Bixby, the company's virtual assistant.

  • Bixby will soon be available on more devices and in five new languages
  • Samsung's Bixby Developer Studio will soon provide developers with open access to the digital assistant.
  • New 'Multi-active window' feature will allow the use of up to three apps simultaneously
  • Samsung announced a new user interface called One UI, which promises a cleaner, simpler design and user experience. An open beta program is scheduled to begin this month.
  • Samsung smart TVs will soon offer the option to be voice-controlled.
  • The Galaxy Home, a digital assistant and sound system that Samsung says it is the "only AI speaker that intuitively moves a wave of sound directly toward you when you ask it to," will be able to integrate with Spotify when the device is released.

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