SAN FRANCISCO — If you're wondering what the point of a foldable phone is — and with Samsung taking the wraps off its foldable Infinity Flex display today (Nov. 7), that's certainly a timely question — the answer may have come during a session aimed at app makers during Samsung's developer conference.
It all comes down to creating a more immersive experience.
Flipboard's Claus Enevoldsen was showing a roomful of developers how his company's app would work on a phone that could expand from a standard smartphone display into a 7.3-inch screen like the one you'd get on Samsung's Infinity Flex device.
On the 4.58-inch cover screen, the Flipboard app looked pretty much like it does on current phones with a scrolling list of stories and photos. Open up the device to get to the larger screen, though, and suddenly the images get larger, the article descriptions get bigger and there's more content immediately viewable.
To put it another way, the cover display on Samsung's foldable phone will be aimed at providing quick at-a-glance views of information, with the display folding out when you really need to dive into a project.
The promise of more immersive apps may not be enough to justify the cost of a foldable smartphone — especially since Samsung hasn't even announced a price or told us when to expect the device (other than to say it's ready to start mass production in a matter of months). But it does take a big step toward given Samsung's upcoming phone a reason for being.
Multitasking looks like it will be another big selling point for the Infinity Flex-based phone. Samsung's device will be able to run three apps at once — a feature the company's dubbed Multi-Active Window — with all of those apps being active.
The layout Samsung showed during its developer session depicted one app taking up the left half of the screen with the two other apps stacked on top of each other on the right half. Imagine your Flipboard browsing taking place in that main section while a video plays in the upper corner of the display and you've got your mail client open in the lower corner.
All of this is powered by Samsung's upcoming OneUI interface, and it will be backed by Google, which is adding support for foldable devices to Android.
That 7.3-inch display will have a 2152 x 1536 resolution, with 420 pixels per inch. For context, the iPad Pro just released by Apple has a 2732 x 2048 screen at 264 ppi, though that tablet has a 12.9-inch screen.
Meanwhile, the smaller outer screen you'll use when the phone is folded up will have a 1960 x 840 resolution with the sam 420 ppi pixel density. That's a lot sharper than the iPhone SE I'm carrying around — Apple's older 4-inch phone has a resolution of 1136 x 640.
It's impossible to say if the foldable phone experience lives up to the hype until we get our hands on one, and Samsung restricted the appearance of its foldable phone to the end of its developer conference keynote today. Based on the limited amount of specs and the user experience described by Samsung, though, the Infinity Flex phone makes foldable devices sound a lot more intriguing than they did 24 hours ago.
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Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.