Samsung provides first glimpse of its folding phone

Samsung Electronics unveiled its much-anticipated foldable phone in San Francisco today, urging Android developers to start writing apps for it. The technology promises the screen of a small tablet in a pocket-sized device.

Justin Denison, a senior vice president of mobile product marketing, showed a prototype with a screen he said measured 7.3 inches diagonally. Folded in two it appeared to resemble a thick phone, but Samsung did not give media or developers a chance to touch or see the device up close.

Dave Burke, vice president of engineering for Google’s Android software platform, told a Google conference in California that Samsung planned to introduce a new Android-based device early next year. “We expect to see foldable products from several Android manufacturers,” he said.

Google’s head of Android UX, Glen Murphy, was also on stage with Samsung and said Google would work with the developer community to bring more features to the phone. Samsung said it would be ready for mass production in the coming months.

Analyst Bob O’Donnell with Technalysis Research said that while the bendable screen provided a wow factor, shoppers may not like the thickness of the folded phone or its price tag. “They’ll have to prove that it’s more than just a gimmick,” said O’Donnell. “But it’s smart to open it up to developers early to do different types of experiences.”

Samsung is among a handful of developers working on foldable phones. China’s Huawei has said it is planning to launch a 5G smartphone with a foldable screen in mid-2019.

Samsung and Huawei, however, have been beaten to the market by Royole, a Chinese display making start-up, which last week unveiled a foldable Android phone with a 7.8 inch screen, priced from around $1,300 and, said the maker, available from December.