Samsung is considering introducing two new smartphone models that will feature bendable screens, including a version that folds in half like a cosmetic compact, people familiar with the matter said.
The devices using organic light-emitting diodes could be unveiled as soon as early 2017, the people said, asking not to be identified because the matter is private. That would likely give it a head start on new Apple iPhones. The second Samsung model will have a 5-inch screen when used as a handset, that unfurls into a display that’s as large as 8 inches, similar to a tablet, the people said.
Samsung, the biggest supplier of OLED panels for mobile products, has pioneered the development of new screen formats with its multi-sided Edge smartphones. Using advanced display technology may help the company recapture customers from Apple and boost earnings that have slumped for the past two years.
“This product could be a game-changer if Samsung successfully comes up with a user interface suitable for bendable screens,” said Lee Seung Woo, an analyst at IBK Securities in Seoul. “Next year is a probable scenario. Their biggest obstacle was related to making transparent plastics and making them durable, which seems resolved by now.”
Shares of Samsung rose 1.7 per cent to 1,400,000 won as of 1.42pm in Seoul, extending this year’s gain to 11 per cent.
Codenamed “Project Valley”, Samsung could unveil one or both of the devices as soon as February, when the Mobile World Congress takes place in Barcelona, one of the people said. That timing would give Samsung a head-start on Apple’s iPhone using OLED screens that may be released later in 2017, the person said.
The company may also name the next version of its Note device as the “Note 7,” skipping a number, to bring it in line with its flagship Galaxy S smartphone range, one of the people said. Samsung doesn’t plan to market the new bendable-screen models under the Galaxy S name, the person said.
Samsung declined to comment in an emailed statement.
After using OLED on its premium devices, Samsung is counting on the technology to win supply orders. The displays are thinner, have brighter colours and are less draining on the battery than those in most current phones.
While the Suwon, South Korea-based company has previously released slick videos featuring foldable concept phones, it has never made such a device commercially. Moxi Group, a Chinese company based in Chongqing, has shown off a bendable phone with black and white screens.
Samsung vice chairman Lee Jae Yong is accelerating a push beyond phones as growth in the market slows. The company has held talks to supply OLEDs to Apple, people familiar with the matter have said. Samsung was one of the biggest makers of chips and displays for Apple until the companies started suing each other in 2011 for alleged patent infringements.
Follow The National’s Business section on Twitter