Samsung Pushes 5G, New Form Factors with its Newest Phones

With the new Galaxy S10 and Galaxy Fold Samsung is looking to lead the way in mobile 5G and also introduce new designs and form factors to smartphones.
The Galaxy Fold is the first in what could be a trend of foldable, bendable smartphones (image source: Samsung)

Samsung is envisioning a future where phones are faster and literally foldable.

Samsung is releasing its first flagship smartphone with 5G connectivity. The Galaxy S10 5G is the highest-end member of the new Galaxy S10 family (which also includes the S10, S10+, and S10e) that was announced at the Samsung's 2019 Unpack conference on February 20.

The S10 5G, which will be available in June, will be among the first wave of 5G phones to hit the market. Major smartphone makers including Huawei, OnePlus, and LG are also expected to release their own 5G smartphones in 2019.

Like the rest of the S10 family, the S10 5G is built on Qualcomm's Snapdragon 855 platform, which Qualcomm debuted in late 2018. The 855's architecture features a CPU, GPU, and DSP all working in tandem in addition to a proprietary “AI Engine.” The enhancements in processing and graphics performance offered by the 855 are a clear benefit to current smartphone applications, and are reflected in features such as the S10 5G's 6.7-inch screen (the largest-ever featured in a Galaxy phone, according to Samsung) and 3D image capturing camera. However, the longer-term goal of the 855 is to provide the horsepower necessary to accommodate multi-gigabit wireless connectivity.

The S10 5G combines the 855 with the Snapdragon X50 5G modem, which is designed with adaptive beamforming and and beam tracking to overcome some of the challenges with capturing a 5G signal. The mmWave wavelengths that comprise 5G have much larger bandwidths than LTE, but come with the caveat that they cannot travel very far and cannot penetrate thick surfaces (like the walls of our homes and offices). The X50 5G overcomes this with built-in algorithms that determine the best paths for a signal to travel – bouncing it off of surfaces when there is no direct line-of-sight – and handing the signal off between 5G small cells. When all else fails the x50 5G is capable of seamlessly switching to a more widely available gigabit LTE signal.

It Folds!

The other big debut at Unpack 2019 was the Galaxy Fold, the first commercially-available phone with a flexible display. At first glance the Fold appears to be a thicker-than-average smartphone with a 4.6-inch display. But the phone actually folds open like a book, revealing itself to be more of mini-tablet, with a 7.3-inch display.

The Fold is the culmination of several foldable phone prototypes Samsung has been teasing since as early as 2011. In a keynote at the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show Samsung touted a concept of a phone with a display as thin and flexible as paper.

The Fold is not that, but it is a step in that direction. According to Samsung, the versatility offered by the folding display allows for more easier and more intuitive multitasking and easier workflows across apps. No developers have announced any apps that specifically take advantage of the foldable features yet so there may also be new, novel uses of the display on the horizon.

To create a screen that bends and also folds without breaking Samsung said it had to create a display that is only half as thick as the typical smartphone display and invent a new polymer layer for the display. The company has withheld specific details, but based on available specs the phone appears to achieve this flexibility by placing OLEDs into a foldable polymer substrate.

Samsung also developed a new hinging system for the phone. According to the company this new mechanism hides multiple interlocking gears inside the enclosure. The phone also has a battery on each side.

Like the members of the Galaxy S10 family, the Galaxy Fold has the Snapdragon 855 platform at its core meaning there's a possibility for 5G support in future version of the Fold as well.

The Galaxy S10 5G will be available as a limited-release exclusive from Verizon Wireless until it launches wider in summer 2019, according to Samsung. No pricing information has been made available

The Galaxy Fold will release in the US in the second quarter of 2019 on AT&T and T-Mobile networks. It has a suggest retail price of $1980.

Chris Wiltz is a Senior Editor at  Design News covering emerging technologies including AI, VR/AR, blockchain, and robotics.

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