Samsung is planning to launch a foldable smartphone later this year. CNBC reports that Samsung CEO DJ Koh hinted the device could be unveiled at Samsung’s developer conference in November, but it’s not clear if consumers will actually be able to purchase the foldable phone this year. Koh admitted that the mystery device had been “complicated” to develop, and rumors have suggested Samsung will launch a phone with a bendable display under the company’s Galaxy Note line.
Samsung has been experimenting with bendable OLED displays for years, and the company first unveiled a prototype back in 2012. Since then, Samsung has been reportedly testing dual-screen smartphones, with the aim of bringing some type of device to market. Koh doesn’t drop many hints at what to expect from Samsung’s foldable smartphone, but he does admit the device and its features need to make consumers react with “wow, this is the reason Samsung made it.”
Samsung released a concept ad for a potential foldable phone back in 2014. The ad featured a device with a bendable display that folded from a more tablet-like size into a pocketable phone. Samsung’s device may include a 7-inch single display, according to a report earlier this year from The Wall Street Journal. The screen will reportedly fold in half like a wallet, with the exterior of the device displaying a small bar of information.
We’re getting closer to 5G networks becoming a reality, and Samsung is getting in on the game with its new Exynos 5100 modem. The company claims that it’s the first 5G modem that is fully compatible with the industry standard for 5G (via Engadget).
The new Exynos Modem 5100 supports both the sub-6GHz and mmWave portions of the electromagnetic spectrums used by the 3GPP’s 5G standard. It’s also compatible with legacy networks like, 2G, 3G, and 4G LTE all in a single chip. Samsung claims that the 5100 can reach speeds of up to 2Gbps per second in the sub-6Ghz range of the spectrum and up to 6Gbps using mmWave signals, which are both significant boosts over what’s currently possible on 4G.
Samsung took the wraps off the Galaxy Note 9 last week, and it announced that the device would work with Samsung DeX, a desktop-style environment you can project to a monitor using a USB-C to HDMI adapter / cable.
It sounds fairly simple, and it seems like the Note 9 is closer to fully realizing the smartphone-computer dream: using your phone to power a desktop-style computing interface without needing a mouse or keyboard (while still supporting both).
After all, why shouldn’t powerful phones have capabilities like laptops? This isn’t the first time this question has been asked by a smartphone OEM, and there have been many unsuccessful attempts to make this happen in the past. The past two years have brought more powerful smartphones than ever, with clock speeds and cores that are closely rival those of laptop processors.
Before we get into how DeX came to be, here’s a look at some of the iterations that got us here.
Windows Phone Continuum
The platform that comes to mind (but wasn’t the first) is Windows Phone and its Continuum feature. Announced back in 2015, it underwent two years of development and didn’t bear fruit in terms of an enjoyable user experience. By the time Continuum was ready for consumers, Windows Phone as a platform was on its last legs.
To make matters worse, most Windows Phone apps (of which there were few to begin with) didn’t work with Continuum, so it was dead on arrival. However, it’s one of the most interesting takes of desktop computing with a phone.
Motorola Atrix with LapDock
The Motorola Atrix was originally unveiled at CES 2011 and launched in the first quarter of that year as an exclusive with AT&T in the United States. It was the first phone to use a PenTile qHD display with 24-bit graphics. But more importantly, it had a feature called Webtop.
When placed into the laptop dock accessory, you could use an Ubuntu-based(!) desktop, complete with Android notifications, multimedia playback, and Firefox. Much like the phone, Webtop was ill-fated and its source code was uploaded to Sourceforge.
Oh, Palm. The short-lived Palm Foleo was announced by Palm Inc. in 2007 to serve as a companion to the then-popular Treo line. It ran Linux as its main operating system, had 256MB of flash memory, near-instant boot-up, and was canceled only three months after the announcement.
It was an odd accessory, mostly due to the fact that it didn’t actually receive or send emails over Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, but rather transmitted over synchronization with your companion Palm smartphone.
Also, here’s a fun fact: if the Palm Foleo had launched, it would have predated some of the netbooks that would be launched and introduced to the consumer market.
Redfly Mobile Companion
If you thought a companion laptop for your smartphone was weird, then get familiar with the Redfly C7. It was introduced in 2007 (after Palm canceled the Folio), supported Windows Mobile smartphones, had a battery life of around five hours, and two USB ports.
However, it didn’t have its own CPU, RAM, or internal storage, so it was completely reliant on a smartphone. With no support for the BlackBerry or Nokia phones that were popular at the time, its demise hedged most on its lack of compatibility with non-Windows Mobile devices.
Asus Zenfone PC Link
PC Link is Asus’ method for mirroring a Zenfone’s screen to a Windows PC by expanding the user interface on a larger screen and making it possible to run alongside other windowed apps. You can connect a Zenfone over its USB-C cable or an Asus docking accessory that comes with mouse and keyboard support. It’s not a groundbreaking feature for Zenfone users, but it allows for more flexibility.
Galaxy S8 / S8 Plus / S9 / S9 Plus / Note 8 / Note 9 with Samsung DeX
Samsung DeX first debuted as a dock accessory, and you’d plug in a monitor, keyboard, and mouse. By docking your Galaxy S8, S8 Plus, or Note 8, you could achieve the Samsung DeX experience. Initially, though, it was a hard sell: why would you use a complete desktop setup with a phone, instead of with a real desktop PC? Still, it was a solid proof-of-concept that extended to the Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus with improvements in speed.
Fast-forward to present day, and the Galaxy Tab S4 and the Galaxy Note 9 have DeX built in. The Tab S4 is particularly adept at using DeX, with the option of using it instead of the default Android interface, but it still supports many Android apps. Unfortunately, the lack of Android tablet apps means it’s not as compelling as it could be. Plus, the Tab S4’s keyboard is lackluster and in dire need of a mouse, which you can add via Bluetooth. However, this still isn’t a fully integrated, smartphone-as-a-computer solution.
On the flip side, it would appear as if the Note 9 does DeX best by requiring just a USB-C to HDMI adapter and cable to connect to a monitor. From there, you can use the Note 9’s screen like a touchpad or use the S Pen in place of your finger.
The Note 9 in DeX mode also doubles as a keyboard, so there’s a real argument to be made that the Note 9 is the first smartphone that can accomplish a full desktop environment, without needing a separate mouse and keyboard to work or an additional software download. By removing those seemingly small barriers to entry, Samsung is making it easy for you to get DeX working. You only need a monitor and an HDMI to USB-C adapter; it’s a plug-and-play solution.
How much work you can get done with the Note 9 running in DeX mode will be dependent on app developers, Note 9 owners’ experiences, as well as the results of our upcoming review. But this much is true: prior to the Note 9, it’s never been this easy to use a phone as a computer.
Samsung is introducing its latest Note soon, and we have a pretty good idea of what to expect, thanks to numerous leaks. So far, we know that it bears a strong resemblance to the Note 8, with a headphone jack, a USB-C port, dual rear cameras, and a rear fingerprint sensor. And the Note 9 looks to have a bigger battery than its predecessors, at 4,000mAh.
In fact, the only thing that’s really remained a secret is how much it will cost and when it will become available for preorders. There are also rumors of a Samsung Galaxy Watch or a new smart speaker powered by Bixby. Perhaps they’ll be addressed at today’s event ahead of IFA in Berlin later this month.
Follow along with The Verge, as we’ll be live blogging from the event in New York and posting stories as they happen.
The Galaxy Note 9 is here, and like every Galaxy Note device before it, one of the highlights of the Note 9 is the thing that separates it from most other smartphones: the S Pen stylus.
This time around, Samsung is upgrading the S Pen in a big way: it’s adding Bluetooth Low Energy, turning the stylus from a mere note-taking accessory into a full-fledged remote control for your phone.
As the original rumors suggested, the addition of Bluetooth adds a ton of new tricks to the S Pen. You can use it as a remote camera shutter, a presentation remote with Samsung’s DeX, and for music controls. Pressing and holding the button opens the camera by default, but that shortcut can be customized to launch any app users want. Samsung says that it will open up the S Pen’s new Bluetooth features to developers later this year.
The extra functionality means that the new S Pen drains more power, but Samsung has a clever solution to that: using supercapacitors, the S Pen can recharge in the phone in just under a minute and last a half hour. It’ll still work as a regular stylus even when the pen dies, too. The idea is that users should never have to think about managing battery life on the pen, which is smart.
It’s August, which means two things: lots of tweets bemoaning the impending end of summer (there’s still plenty of time to enjoy the sun, folks!), and a new Samsung Galaxy Note device — in this case, the Galaxy Note 9, which Samsung is expected to announce on August 9th at its Galaxy Unpacked event.
The star of Thursday’s show is set to be Samsung’s latest stylus-equipped flagship, the Galaxy Note 9. Like this year’s Galaxy S9, the Note 9 is expected to be an incremental update on last year’s Note 8, keeping roughly the same design while adding new improvements and refinements. Sticking around are things like the dual camera system, the rear fingerprint sensor (albeit in an adjusted position), and the iris scanner, with Samsung specifically focusing on a few areas for improvement:
Upgraded S Pen: It wouldn’t be a new Note without a new S Pen, and Samsung is teasing some pretty big upgrades for this year’s model. A boost to accuracy and sensitivity seems like a safe bet, but the big changes could come in the addition of Bluetooth to the stylus, allowing it to be used as a remote control.
More battery life: Based on Samsung’s teasers for the Note 9, battery life is going to be a big selling point for the phone. Rumors suggest that the Note 9 might feature a 4,000 mAh battery, roughly 14 percent larger than the 3,500 mAh one found on the ill-fated Galaxy Note 7 (as well as the smaller 3,300 mAh battery in last year’s Note 8). That’s room for a lot of battery life — assuming Samsung really has learned its lesson from the Note 7.
More storage: Also leaked in Samsung’s promo video, the Note 9 will come with up to 512GB of on-board storage, which, when combined with a 512GB microSD card (the largest currently on the market), means that users will be able to pack a full terabyte of storage into their phones. Just don’t expect getting that amount of storage to come cheap — the 512GB version alone will be expensive, and that’s before you factor in another $350 or more for a 512GB card.
Better cameras: Given that it’s a new Samsung smartphone, expect there to be some upgrades to the camera, with a possible upgrade to the dual-aperture system that Samsung introduced with the Galaxy S9.
Faster speeds: Like the Galaxy S9 before it, the Note 9 will likely feature an upgrade to Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 845 processor, along with the chipmaker’s newest (and fastest) modem.
Fortnite: In case you’ve been living under a rock this year, Fortnite is the biggest game in the world — and the long-anticipated Android port may be a timed exclusive to the Galaxy Note 9, if the rumors are true.
The Note 9 isn’t the only thing Samsung has planned for Thursday, though. It seems that the company has a new smartwatch in the works: the Galaxy Watch, which appears to be breaking from away from the “Gear” naming scheme that Samsung has used in recent years and instead switching over to the better known Galaxy branding seen on Samsung’s smartphones and tablets.
It doesn’t sound like the naming change means big changes for the watch, though. Users getting their hopes up that the Galaxy name might mean a return to Google’s camp for the Android-based Wear OS may be disappointed: rumors say that the Galaxy Watch will still run Tizen, like Samsung’s other smartwatches.
Bixby is probably getting added though, so at least there’s that to, uh, look forward to?
Wireless Charger Duo
Another product that has been essentially confirmed is a new Samsung wireless charger, capable of charging two devices at once — seemingly perfect to charge, say, a Galaxy Note 9 and a Galaxy Watch?
A Bixby-powered smart speaker
Finally, we get to something that hasn’t completely leaked: Samsung’s long rumored Bixby-powered smart speaker to take on competitors like Amazon’s Alexa devices, Google Home, and Apple’s HomePod. The company has confirmed before that the device is in the works, and a recent report from the Wall Street Journalclaimed that Samsung could be looking to announce it this month for $300.
Flexible OLED displays have been around for a few years now, however their implementations in consumer devices have so far been limited to putting the flexible panel behind a rigid piece of protective glass. Samsung Display has just announced the next step up from that: a flexible OLED panel that has a transparent plastic cover already attached, emulating the properties of glass but retaining the screen’s innate flexibility. Without the need for glass, this screen has proven rugged enough to be certified by UL (formerly known as Underwriters Laboratories) for its durability.
Samsung, describing the new panel as unbreakable, reports that it has withstood UL’s military-standards tests of 26 successive drops from a height of 1.2 meters (close to 4 feet) as well as extreme temperatures as high as 71 degrees Celsius (159.8°F) and as low as -32 degrees Celsius (-25.6°F). The OLED display “continued to function normally with no damage to its front, sides, or edges,” we’re told, and Samsung even went further by performing a successful drop test from 1.8 meters (6 feet).
Obviously developed primarily for smartphones, this new flexible OLED panel will also be offered for use in other electronic devices such as portable game consoles, military devices, e-learning tablets, and in-car displays. Samsung Display isn’t offering a timeline for when we might expect a release of any products with the supposedly unbreakable OLED panel inside them, and it has yet to announce mass production of the new component. So while the new screen sounds exciting, we should probably restrain our enthusiasm until it gets closer to showing up in real devices.
Specifically, the second-generation 10nm (1y-nm) class 16Gb LPDDR4X (Low Power, Double Data Rate, 4X) Mobile DRAM chip achieves the current 4,266 Mbps data rate seen in flagship smartphones, but does so with a power decrease that’s up to 10 percent.
Things get even more interesting when Samsung combines the chips, creating an 8GB LPDDR4X mobile DRAM package by using four of the 10nm-class 16Gb LPDDR4X DRAM chips (16Gb=2GB). That might look like a lot of inscrutable text, but the result is a package that’s more energy efficient overall and 20 percent slimmer than the current design.
The new energy-efficient chip “should first hit the market late this year or the first part of 2019,” said Sewon Chun, senior vice president of memory sales & marketing at Samsung Electronics. This move is a major change in Samsung’s chip lineup because it involves a 70 percent expansion in production. The new memory chips should arrive just in time for the new wave of Galaxy flagships — but seemingly not the Note 9 coming later this month.