At a press conference held in San Francisco last November, Koh Dong-jin, head of the IM division at Samsung Electronics, explained the merits of a foldable phone in terms of software rather than hardware. Koh judged that consumers would not buy a foldable smartphone before understanding why such a phone is needed. This is why the Korean smartphone giant unveiled the Infinite Flex Display (foldable display) and a user interface for it three months ago before unveiling a foldable phone. It intended to build a foldable phone ecosystem before releasing its product.
Smartphone industry watchers say that consumers will focus on what they can do with foldable smartphones after initial products are released by Samsung Electronics and Huawei around the end of this February.
One key issue is to develop applications suitable for the new aspect ratios of foldable smartphones. These days, the common aspect ratios of smartphones are 16 to 9 and 18 to 9 so their length is nearly twice as long as their width. However, the aspect ratio of a foldable display that Samsung Electronics showed in November of 2018 was 4.2 to 3, which means the display is almost square. Accordingly, when a video is played on the unfolded display, there would be a big blank on the display or images would be distorted to fit into the screen.
Samsung Electronics decided to actively build a foldable smartphone ecosystem. It has been running a task force (TF) since last year to develop an operating system (OS) dedicated to foldable phones with Google. Moreover, the two have been discussing with other companies production of video content for foldable phones.
Industry analysts say that once the ecosystem is built, users will be able to enjoy different experiences in games and media. "The Apple iPhone differed from feature phones not only in appearance but in functions. Likewise foldable smartphones will be able to survive only if they offer new functions. For this, it is necessary to build an ecosystem for foldable phones,” an analyst said.
It is the game industry that has been responding to foldable phones faster than others. Currently, users play mobile games by touching screens, so their fingers can hide game scenes. Furthermore, players cannot do other tasks such as making calls and sending texts concurrently when gaming. However, the original user interface of Samsung foldable phones allows users to perform up to three tasks simultaneously. Samsung's patented gaming foldable phone is designed in such a way that a joystick for games comes out when it is folded in half.
Accordingly, Korean game companies such as NCsoft and Pearl Abyss are discussing the launches of games that can be enjoyed on foldable phones. Samsung Electronics is constantly collaborating with more than 50 game companies around the world including Epic Games, the developer of the game “Fortnite.”
The media are also expected to go through big changes in the new age when foldable phones meet 5G mobile services. When a foldable phone is released, collaboration will be promoted to allow people to enjoy virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and holograms on foldable displays.