Just about every respectful company that produces handsets has one or more patents concerning foldable or flexible phones. Samsung is one of the companies that has loads of such patents filed in the United States and Korea.
Apple, LG and Microsoft have also filed applications for foldable smartphones with the USPTO (United States Patent and Trademark Office), but they will probably not risk being the first to launch a commercial product based on these patents.
Which means Samsung will be the tip of the spearhead meant to bring such innovative devices on a rather traditional smartphone market. Digitimes reports that sources from Taiwan's handset supply chain claim Samsung is going to start small production of its first foldable smartphone with a flexible AMOLED display in Q4 2017.
Unfortunately, Samsung won't be able to begin mass production of its foldable smartphone until the second half of 2018 due to some technological issues.
Although it's now possible to produce PI (polyimide)-based plastic cover, an important component of foldable smartphones, the manufacturing process hasn't been refined yet.
PI can be produced in large quantities, but mass production of the plastic covers that would meet the quality requirements is not expected to be ready until H2 2018, sources claim.
Even though it looks like the first foldable smartphones are less than a year away, we can't help but wonder if flexible smartphones are still being considered by Samsung or any other handset maker. Flexible smartphones are much easier to make, though they would not be so mind-blowing as foldable models.
In the same piece of news, Samsung is expected to showcase a foldable smartphone prototype later this month at Mobile World Congress (MWC).
It could be the same device that will be mass produced next year, or just Samsung's attempt to get some feedback from potential customers.