One of the biggest 'will-they, won't-they' issues in tech so far this year has been regarding Samsung and foldable phones. There have been so many hints that the South Korean tech giant will release a smartphone with a flexible display, up to and including an alleged secret unveiling at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, but nothing has been concrete.
However, this has all changed following the company's conference call for the fourth quarter of 2017, which states clearly what Samsung's priorities will be. For the first time, the firm looks like it is going to launch three high-end, flagship products in a single year. The Galaxy S9 and Galaxy Note 9 will be joined by a folding phone, the so-called 'Galaxy X'.
Samsung didn't mention this handset by name – indeed, it's not clear that it is even going to be called the Galaxy X – but a press release following its conference call states that in 2018, “the OLED panel business will strengthen its competitiveness in the premium segment with the release of foldable panels”.
If that's not enough, Samsung said that this year it “will continue its efforts to differentiate its smartphones by adopting cutting-edge technologies, such as foldable OLED displays”. This seems to clearly suggest the launch of the Galaxy X at some point in 2018; probably late in the year, according to most analysts.
This is possible due to strong sales; in fact, the last quarter of 2017 was its most profitable Q4 ever. The company recorded revenue of $61.5 billion (around £43.3 billion), of which roughly $14.1 billion was profit. This is an enormous increase of 64 per cent compared to Q4 2016's profits.
All of this adds up to an overall profit of around $50 billion for Samsung in 2017, which doesn't look set to slow down any time soon. So what does this mean for the Galaxy X, or any other foldable device Samsung decides to bring out?
With such enormous profits, Samsung can afford to take a few risks, and this appears to be the case with the Galaxy X. The foldable screen has been something a number of manufacturers have been chasing for some time now, but Samsung has been getting closer and closer.
In fact, the company's president of mobile, Dong-jin Koh, told the Korea Herald that the firm was getting ready to launch a foldable phone, but doubted that it would be ready for 2018. He said: “We want to have a good reaction from customers once the phone is out in the market. But there are still durability issues that we need to address.”
It seems that he might have been pessimistic in this regard, as the company is apparently ready to commit to a foldable smartphone in 2018.