The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Galaxy Z Flip 3 are the most refined foldable phones to date and have impressed most reviewers. But if you’re curious about where Samsung plans to go next, this might just have offered you a clue.
Samsung’s ‘Flex In & Out’ is a three-part foldable prototype that appeared in the flesh at South Korea’s 2021 International Conference for Information Displays (IMID) (via TechSpot). It’s a bit rough around the edges, but it convincingly shows how phones like the Z Fold 3 and Z Flip 3 could evolve in the future.
The so-called “multi-foldable OLED” can be seen in this official video from Samsung Display, the branch of the Korean tech giant responsible for manufacturing displays for Samsung’s own products and many other companies. Unfortunately, Samsung doesn’t show us the device in motion, what it looks like, and how its software might work.
In its fully unfolded form, it is a 7.2-inch tablet, although it is more rectangular than the square interior screen of the Z Fold 3, and appears to be intended for use primarily in landscape orientation, unlike the Z Flip 3. This makes the concept more similar to a normal tablet, while in theory folding to the size of a standard smartphone.
Besides using it fully folded or unfolded, you are supposed to be able to use different apps on different parts of the screen. For example, part of the demo shows Instagram, a photo, and a music player all in use simultaneously, each occupying one of the phone’s three panels.
While it’s exciting to see Samsung bring a popular concept of foldable phones to life, there are a lot of practical questions. This phone appears to be incredibly thick when folded completely, making it less handy for pockets and therefore less practical as a phone. The width of the screens doesn’t seem to help either.
It appears that there is only one network of cameras on this device, which is smart. There is no sense in wasting space when you can use the same cameras for selfies and normal photos. However, these cameras are built into a huge bezel, much larger than what you need to get a good grip on the phone.
The main thing Samsung needs to do before marketing a phone like this is to scale it down to roughly match the size and thickness expected of today’s phones. Otherwise, it seems like a feasible next step for foldable devices from the company that currently makes the best foldable phones.