Samsung is way out in the lead of the fledgling foldable market, and it might stay that way based on the concept hardware it showed off at the recent Display Week 2021 conference. There are more folds, different folds, and less distracting cameras. You can’t buy these devices yet, but they could arrive sooner than you think based on the rapid improvement we’ve already seen in Samsung’s foldables.
We’ve seen folding OLED demos at trade shows for the better part of a decade, but real foldables finally started to appear in the last two years courtesy of Motorola, Huawei, and of course, Samsung. The first major foldable release was the Z Fold, which suffered a number of hardware issues during the initial review program. However, Samsung developed hardware fixes to launch the phone, and then it released a better foldable just a year later.
The next step for Samsung might be the long-rumored bi-folding device. The S-Foldable OLED unveiled at Display Week is probably a glimpse of that eventual bi-fold. When folded over twice, it’s a typical candy bar form factor, but fully unfurled, it offers a 7.2-inch display.
The device has two folds, and therefore two hinges. Samsung’s foldable hinge design is a real marvel of engineering. I’ve been using a Z Fold 2 regularly for months, and the hinge feels exactly the same as when I got it. Although, any device with two of these complex mechanisms is going to be more expensive.
Samsung also demoed a slidable display at the event, but I don’t think this design is as likely to catch on as foldables. This device lets you expand the screen by unrolling an extra length of display hidden inside the device. Likewise, Display Week features an enormous foldable tablet display measuring 17 inches when fully open. It’s a 4:3 canvas when open, but each half is its own wide-screen display as well.
Finally, Samsung showed what might be its final Under Panel Camera (UPC) technology. This will allow front-facing cameras to do their thing by peeking through the OLED panel — no more punch holes. Samsung is rumored to be using a UPC on the upcoming Z Fold3. You’ll probably have to wait a little longer to see the rest of this in consumer devices.
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