Samsung wants gadgets of the future to do more than just fold in half. That message was clear at CES, where the smartphone-maker showcased its flexible display concepts. Among the most notable was the Flex Hybrid, which has a screen that folds and slides to change its size.
The Flex Hybrid folds closed like a notebook, but opens up to reveal a tablet-sized display with an adjustable screen. The display can switch between 10.5- and 12.4-inch screen sizes, thanks to its slidable and foldable design. In addition to changing the screen's size, the prototype can also jump between 4:3 and 16:10 aspect ratios. Although the Flex Hybrid is just a concept, it shows that Samsung is investigating what the next evolution of foldable phones and tablets might look like.
The Flex Hybrid is just one of several mock-ups, which Samsung detailed in a Jan. 3 press release. There's also a 17-inch slidable display, which was previewed in September, and a digital cockpit concept meant for self-driving vehicles. My colleague Eli Blumenthal, who had the chance to see Samsung's concepts in person at CES, said these designs have renewed his excitement about the future of foldables.
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Concepts like these don't always result in real products, but the Flex Hybrid feels most in line with Samsung's current product strategy. Foldable phones only account for a sliver of the broader phone market, but the Galaxy Z Fold and Galaxy Z Flip have become well-established within Samsung's mobile device lineup. The company's early entry into the foldable phone space has given it an edge in terms of market share as Samsung accounts for more than 88% of the foldable smartphone market, according to Omdia.
TM Roh, the head of Samsung's mobile experience business, suggested in an interview last August that the company is already thinking about what's next after the Z Fold and Z Flip. The introduction of new concepts like the Flex Hybrid underscores that point.
"It's everything you saw [at CES] plus more," he said, referencing the display concepts Samsung showcased at CES last year.
But Samsung will also likely face more competition as foldable phones continue to evolve. Motorola and TCL have both shown rollable phone concepts of their own. Oppo's Find N2, which the company introduced in late 2022, also shows a lot of promise thanks to its lightweight design, as my colleague Sareena Dayaram wrote.
Although Samsung is trying to make foldables a more regular fixture in our daily lives, its goal isn't to replace regular phones.
"I would not see either just a bar-type, or just a foldable, or just another potentially new form factor dominating the market," Roh also said during the previous interview. "But rather I see the different categories coexisting together."