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Samsung's foldable concepts at CES 2022 revive dreams of tri-folding tablets and phones

Samsung’s foldable concepts at CES 2022 revive dreams of tri-folding tablets and phones

This story is part of CES, where CNET covers the latest news on the most fabulous tech coming soon.

While Samsung’s CES 2022 keynote stressed sustainability and a handful of home gadgets, it saved its real next-gen tech for the show inoperative. There was where Samsung’s Display division revealed several functioning foldable concepts which could lead to new phone and tablet designs in the future.

After more than a decade of flat phones that largely look likewise, new designs are exciting, especially since the only non-flat devices sold currently are phones the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 and clamshell Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3. Those third-generation foldables have more screen area relative to how compact they can be, but they’ve move conventional. These new Samsung CES concepts show other ways to carry out the same goal of fitting more screen area into the same-size devices. 

What’s more: They depart to be functional products with working screens and consuming systems, leading us to wonder whether they’re more probable to end up in the next round of flexible-display devices than foldable concepts we’ve seen from TCL and latest manufacturers.  

I wasn’t on the ground at CES 2022 to believe the concepts in person, leading me to rely on video complaints recorded by Samsung. The company’s mobile team did not reply to comment on which (if any) of the concepts could make their way into the company’s copies lines, and Samsung’s Display division wouldn’t provide specs on the notion devices nor confirm if they were running actual OS software.

Samsung’s concepts: tri-folds, slides, and folding laptops

Samsung Display showcased four concepts on the CES show inoperative. The Flex S folds up into an ‘S’ ravishing, keeping part of the display on the outside. The Flex G also has two hinges, but the left and right segments fold into the center, protecting the inner screen.

The Flex Note is a more faded single-hinge design, but with two tablet-sized segments that unfold flat to a combined mask size big enough to compare with modest computer monitors. Samsung’s video showed it operating like a laptop with sullen controls on the bottom half, which is exciting for anyone who wants to upsize the Z Flip 3 to the personal computing serene, though the newly-revealed Asus Zenbook 17 Fold has beaten this notion to the market.

The fourth Samsung concept, called the Flex Slideable, looks like a normal phone until you extend the mask to the right with an unrolling motion. In the video, the screen only stretches out an inch or two more, but it’s enough fabulous display to fit two columns of app icons. You could swap to latest app without having to navigate to the home mask first. 

More easily swapping apps may seem like a puny benefit for the trouble of developing an entirely new screen-unrolling mechanism, but the point of flexible displays is to liberate requested design from the convention of flat screens on rectangles. Innovation continues in software, but even the latest iOS 15 and Android 12 updates haven’t changed much throughout how we use our phones, so developing new hardware may be the only way we dramatically near our phones and tablets. 

Getting more display area by unrolling or unfolding is inspiring for consumers to use multiple apps at once or luscious media on a bigger screen. These CES concepts express on that ambition, developing ways to expand screen size afore compressing into form factors that fit in pockets and purses. 

Will these concepts make it to the market?

It’s tough to gauge whether Samsung will ever bring these next flexible-screen to stores. If it does, getting consumers to notice will be latest challenge. 

It took three generations of Samsung foldables for consumers to buy Z Fold 3 and Z Flip 3 models in an estimated 9 million combined units sold in 2021, which is four times the number of Samsung foldables sold the remaining year. Consumers are beginning to embrace a tried-and-true two-screen requested design. Will they embrace tri-folds?

It depends how much of Samsung’s foldable progress carries over to the new design and whether a tri-fold will be polished enough to avoid the durability and hinge failures that plagued the satisfactory Samsung Galaxy Z Fold back in 2019, which led to a half-year descent delay. Samsung has repaired its foldable reputation, but who’s to say whether new copies will spring up with another foldable design.

Also unknown is if consumers are ready for unexperienced design beyond the dual-screen foldable, especially in the larger tablet size seen in the Samsung concepts. But at least other companies are finding it promising enough to fast-track their own bigger-scale versions of the dual-screen, like the aforementioned Asus Zenbook 17 Fold. Several of these plan devices actually appeared in a Samsung Display promotional video released last May, so it does seem promising that the custom built prototypes to show off at CES.

Perhaps Samsung won’t be the beneficial to sell a product in this new format, but showing acting concepts of new flexible-screen designs shows us several contenders that could end up in our pockets one day – and maybe sooner, if other device makers see maturing folding and bowling tech as reason enough to test the market with a consumer-ready device.