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Samsung's Next Phone May Fold Out Into a Tablet

Samsung will reportedly come out with a foldable smartphone for later this year. And it might just convert into a 7-inch tablet.

A 2014 Samsung concept video shows a bendable phone.

A 2014 Samsung concept video shows a bendable phone.

Samsung has told its suppliers to ready at least 100,000 foldable devices for later this year, reports Korea Herald, citing sources who claim to have knowledge of the company's discussions.

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When folded, the rumored phone would deliver a full smartphone experience with a bendy screen. But it's what's hiding when the handsets are unfolded that might prove most interesting. According to the Korea Herald's sources, the unfolded handset would convert into a 7-inch tablet. If the device makes it to store shelves, it would be the first from Samsung to offer a bendable design that would convert into a tablet.

Samsung subsidiary Samsung Display has been working on foldable screens for the last few years. In 2016, the company showcased the technology, and illustrated how with minor pressure, users can bend the screen without sacrificing image quality or worrying about breaking it. LG Display is also working on bendable screens. And Lenovo showed off a similar concept at last year's Lenovo Tech World.

Talk of foldable hardware from Samsung has made the rounds for years but intensified in 2016. Last June, a report suggested that Samsung would offer two bendable smartphones in 2017 that would come with bendable designs. That report suggested that the smartphones would offer OLED screens, since they're easier to fold and make their debut at Mobile World Congress in February. Interestingly, that report from Bloomberg suggested one of the bendable Samsung devices would deliver a 5-inch screen that could unfold into an 8-inch tablet.

Still, Korea Herald sources were quick to note that Samsung might change its mind on the convertible smartphone. They said that Samsung is still unsure whether a foldable handset would appeal to customers. If the company can't be sure of its profitability, it might not offer the smartphone this year. A final decision on the matter is expected to come down later this year, with the foldable smartphone arriving in the third quarter of the year should Samsung gives it the green light.

Don Reisinger is a communications strategist, consultant, and copywriter who has also written for many leading technology and business publications including CNET, Fortune Magazine and The New York Times, as well as Tom's Guide.