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The cost of Samsung's foldable phone? Almost $2,000, analyst says

On the cutting edge, your wallet bleeds.

Josh Miller/CNET

The latest buzz on Samsung's rumored foldable phone? It may cost you the thick end of $2,000, if the latest analyst speculations are to be believed. 

According to the Korea Times, analyst Park Hyung-woo from Shinhan Financial predicts initial parts suppliers will start production in November in time for a 2019 launch. And Kim Jang-yeol from Golden Bridge Investment speculates that the nonsubsidized price could be about 2 million won, which converts to about $1,850, £1,380 or AU$2,430.

Golden Bridge also says it will have a 7.3-inch OLED screen when open and 4.5 inches when folded, and that we'll be seeing behind-closed-doors prototypes during CES 2019. If that's true, it will likely be launched at Mobile World Congress in February 2019.

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Samsung didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. 

Samsung's efforts to make a foldable phone come as demand for smartphones slows down. It's getting harder for handset makers to differentiate their devices, and consumers don't feel the need to upgrade as often. In the fourth quarter, overall smartphone unit sales fell for the first time ever, according to Gartner. While they again rose in the first quarter, "demand for premium and high-end smartphones continued to suffer," Gartner analyst Anshul Gupta said.  

Not just a gimmick

Samsung, the world's biggest phone vendor, is known for trying out new, and sometimes risky, hardware designs. Its Galaxy Note was one of the first devices to pack a bigger screen into a phone, something that's now common for all smartphone makers, even Apple. And Samsung first jumped into phones with curved displays with 2013's Galaxy Round. That device shipped only in small quantities, but it influenced Samsung's later designs. All the company's flagship phones now have flexible, curved displays. 

Some handset makers have already experimented with foldable phones. ZTE's 2017 Axon M has two screens that fold out into a tablet and are connected by a hinge. The hope is Samsung's device will be a truly foldable phone with one flexible OLED display and no hinge. It's already shown it has the technological prowess for such a device. Part of the struggle has been manufacturing it in high quantities.

Samsung is in competition with Huawei to claim "first!" in the race to release such a foldable phone. Samsung Mobile President DJ Koh has gone on the record to talk about the company's plans for a foldable Galaxy phone and has previously told reporters to expect a folding phone as early as this year. 

Koh also told CNET that he doesn't want the phone to be a gimmick. "I need complete confidence that we're delivering the best user experience when we're launching a new category," Koh said in February.

But the device, rumored to be called the Galaxy X, isn't likely to be a mainstream phone when it launches. Instead, it's more likely to be similar to the Galaxy Round -- an experiment that influences later designs.  

A $2,000 price tag would all but ensure that only the biggest phone geeks would buy Samsung's foldable phone. The latest and greatest smartphones are more expensive than their predecessors, but it's likely most consumers won't pay $2,000 for a phone. The $1,000 iPhone X -- which is $200 more than Apple's previous most expensive smartphone, the 7 Plus -- is a stretch for many people. Samsung also has started increasing the price for its newest phones. The Galaxy S9 at Verizon costs $800, while the Galaxy S8 retailed for $720 when it debuted last year. 

The South Korean giant's next mainstream phone is expected to be the Samsung Galaxy Note 9, due this fall.

First published June 13 at 6:45 a.m. PT.
Update, 11:27 a.m.: Adds details. 

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