Samsung says its foldable phone will be a tablet you can put in your pocket
Samsung's long-rumored foldable still hasn't shown up, but its mobile chief offered one compelling case a product that could easily be written off as a gimmick.
DJ Koh, CEO of Samsung's mobile business, said you will be able to use the device as a tablet with multitasking capability before being able to fold it up into a more portable phone.
"When we deliver a foldable phone, it has to be really meaningful to our customer," Koh said in an interview at the sidelines of the Samsung GalaxyA9 launch. "If the user experience is not up to my standard, I don't want to deliver those kind of products."
He once again stressed the foldable phone wouldn't be a "gimmick product" that will "disappear after six to nine months after it's delivered." It will also be available globally, unlike previous gimmick phones like the Galaxy Round, which used a curved display and was only available in Korea.
Samsung has been chasing the holy grail of foldable phones since it teased one at CES 2013 by showing off a flexible OLED display. Koh confirmed earlier last month that its upcoming device will be launched this year, and could debut as early as next month at Samsung's Developer Conference. The folding capability would mark a major advance in smartphones, which have stagnated with fewer innovations and companies add incremental upgrades.
Samsung's not the only company aiming at a foldable phone. Huawei could be gunning to be the first to launch one too in November. Huawei beat Apple to become the world's second-largest smartphone maker, and is likely aiming for Samsung's top spot. Launching the first foldable phone could help either company cement a reputation of innovation, and create buzz that could trickle down to its more traditional -- and cheaper -- phones.
The larger screen is important, Koh said. When Samsung first released the original Galaxy Note, Koh said competitors called its device dead on arrival. After generations of Notes phones came out, you see larger devices like the iPhone XS Max or the Pixel 3 XL, proving that consumers want bigger screens. A foldable phone would let screen sizes extend beyond 6.5-inches.
"Possibly when we start selling the foldable phone, it may be a niche market, but definitely, it will expand," he said. "I'm positive that we do need a foldable phone."