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Samsung Could Start Manufacturing First Foldable Smartphone in Q4 2017

A rumor that surfaced online last month had claimed that the first foldable smartphones from Samsung will be launched in the second half of the year. However, a new report refutes the claim, suggesting we may not see the first Samsung foldable smartphone this year at all.

Citing Taiwanese supply chain sources, the report claims Samsung plans to start a “small production” of its first foldable smartphone with a flexible Super AMOLED display in the fourth quarter of this year. Mass production is expected commence only in the second half of 2018, provided Samsung can overcome numerous technical issues. One of the issues involves the production and reliability of the PI (polyimide)-based plastic cover, which is a key component for a foldable smartphone. Currently PI substrates are being produced in large volume but the pass production of PI-based plastic covers with reliable quality is not expected to begin until the first half of next year.

Samsung had applied patents related to foldable smartphones to the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in late last year, which means the company already has working prototypes ready. A recent rumor had suggested Samsung will be showing off a foldable smartphone prototype at the Mobile World Congress 2017 in Barcelona this month, so we may not have to wait very long to get a good first look at what’s coming next year. Samsung will not be only one to launch foldable smartphones in the near future, many other leading smartphone makers have filed patent applications with the USPTO. Some of these include Apple, LG Electronics, and Microsoft. LG had showcased its flexible OLED display prototypes at various events in the recent past, so we think LG’s first foldable smartphone might be released soon after Samsung’s first foldable smartphone is launched, possibly in the second half of 2018.

Analysts believe foldable smartphones will have a market share of 20% by 2019, so we could start seeing a number of new foldable smartphones launch by the end of next year.