With global smartphone sales stagnating ahead of the launch of next-generation 5G cellular networks, Samsung is previewing its 2019 phone plans, and there are a couple of surprises in store. The company now says that its first 5G phone won’t be the Galaxy S10 and confirms that it’s planning multiple foldable phones, not just one model.
Fresh off his appearance at last week’s Galaxy Unpacked event in New York, Samsung mobile chief DJ Koh told an audience of Korean journalists (via ZDNet) that the company is working with South Korean carriers to be the first to launch a 5G phone — but notably not the Galaxy S10. He said that Samsung is working on a separate 5G phone but left ambiguous what type of phone it would be.
As South Korea is expected to launch 5G in March, this device could be a one-off product deliberately kept outside the Galaxy S and Note families. Chip makers have suggested that early 5G devices will be larger and less power-efficient than 4G phones, since device manufacturers will have to work around initial modem, antenna, and form factor design challenges. Those issues might dampen enthusiasm for Samsung’s highest-profile, top-selling flagship phones.
Based on Koh’s comments, it appears the company may have four separate phone launches in 2019 — the S10, the Note 10, the 5G phone, and a long-rumored foldable phone, all with separate branding. “For the immediate future,” Koh told journalists, “there won’t be a change in launching the S series in the first half and Note series in the second half of the year.”
Koh indicated that the foldable phone’s unveiling isn’t far off, alluding to competitive pressure to get the device out soon, as Samsung doesn’t “want to lose the world’s-first title.” According to Koh, Samsung has been “focusing on developing innovations that will be genuinely accepted and liked by consumers” for the foldable phone and has solved durability and quality issues related to the design. The phone is expected to fold in half like a wallet, opening to reveal a miniature tablet-sized 7-inch display. It is projected to cost as much as $1,500.
While Samsung, Huawei, and Apple have all been working on foldable devices for years, those have largely been revealed in patents, and no actual images have surfaced. Samsung is reportedly hoping that the innovation in a foldable phone will boost lackluster sales, apparently for the long-term; Koh says that the foldable phone initiative isn’t meant to be a novelty. “We wouldn’t have started [the project] if it was going to be a one-time thing,” he said, providing a broad hint that the company plans to offer a family of foldable phones. Whether they merge with the S or Note lineups in the future remains to be seen.