The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Galaxy Z Flip 3 are the most refined foldable phones yet, and have impressed most reviewers. But if you're curious as to where Samsung plans to go next, it might have just offered a clue.
The Samsung "Flex In & Out" is a three-part foldable prototype that appeared in the flesh at South Korea's International Meeting for Information Displays (IMID) 2021 conference (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 might evolve in future.
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The so-called "multi-foldable OLED" can be seen in this official video from Samsung Display, the arm of the Korean tech giant responsible for making screens for Samsung's own products and many other companies. Unfortunately, Samsung doesn't show us the device in motion, just how it looks and how its software might work.
At its full unfolded form, it's a 7.2-inch tablet, although it's more rectangular than the square inner display of the Z Fold 3, and appears to be meant for use primarily in landscape orientation, unlike the Z Flip 3. This makes the concept more similar to a normal tablet, while still in theory folding up to the size of a standard smartphone.
Other than using it fully folded or unfolded, you are supposedly able to use different apps on different parts of the display. For example, one part of the demo shows Instagram, a photo and a music player all in use simultaneously, each taking up one of the phone's three panels.
While it's exciting to see Samsung bring a popular concept for foldable phones to life, there are many questions of practicality. This phone looks like it would be incredibly thick when folded up fully, making it less pocket-friendly and therefore less practical as a phone. The width of the displays doesn't seem to help either.
There appears to be a only a single camera array on this device, which is smart. There is no sense in wasting space when you can use the same cameras for selfies and normal pictures. However, these cameras are embedded in a huge bezel, one that's far larger than you need to get a good grip on the phone.
The key thing Samsung needs to do before bringing a phone like this to market is pare it down so it fits roughly within expected the size and thickness of current phones. Otherwise, this looks like a feasible next step for foldables from the company currently making the best foldable phones around.