Samsung and Huawei both announced foldable smartphones last week and the tech word as been abuzz ever since. Beyond how these two early gen one offerings stack up against each other, one of the biggest topics since has been if or when Apple will enter the fray.
One of the biggest impediments to Apple releasing a foldable iPhone would be access to folding OLED screens, which they don’t make themselves and would take several years for them to develop in-house. Even with Apple’s patents covering foldable phone technology, which are public knowledge, they can’t make a product without access to the screens in mass quantities. Huawei definitely isn’t going to help Apple out here and there have been questions as to whether Samsung, one of their current providers of OLED screens, will play ball, either. This potential problem was pointed out several times over the last week.
However, it seems that Samsung isn’t as opposed to sharing its folding screen technology as some assumed. According to a report by ETNews (English synopsis courtesy of TechRadar), Samsung isn’t just willing to sell, but has already sent screen samples to both Apple and Google in hopes of securing future business for their foldable phone designs. Considering that Apple has a stranglehold on most of the other parts of their supply chain, there should be no impediment to them releasing a phone with a folding OLED display in the future.
None of this should come as a big surprise to anyone. Samsung could have used their hold on this screen technology to keep Apple, Google and others as bay, waiting for another company like LG to catch up and get them in the game late. However, they haven’t played the game that way to this point. They have been willing to sell components to Apple, even when the relationship between the companies has been severely strained by lawsuits and intense head-to-head competition. Samsung sold Apple OLED panels for the iPhone X and its follow ups last year, and even let them customize the color balance and software integration. While Samsung could hold their competitors back in foldables, it looks like they prefer to make even more money off of them.
If this report proves to be true, then Samsung is making the smart play here. They know they are going to have a solid place in this market as it moves forward because they got in early. Their first Galaxy Fold isn’t going to sell well, but what they learn from it will pay off in future version. If things go according to plan, they will also be able to add the sales of millions of additional screens to what they will make on their own phones. There is a lot of money potentially on the table here. Rather than focus on exclusivity, it looks like Samsung is going to get every dollar they can out of their foldable OLEDs tech. If I were a Samsung investor (and just for full disclosure, I’m not), I would be very happy with this news.