April 13, 2024

At Samsung’s first official Unpacked event on Feb. 11, consumers waited in anticipation as the company began its new unveiling of technology and gadgets in their keynote. 

It was, after all, Steve Jobs who carefully refined Apple’s tech keynote in the 2000s, and now it serves as a model for most technology companies for effective product marketing.

At Samsung Unpacked, not only did the company look back to a page from Apple’s playbook, but it wagered its new foldable smartphone would merge nostalgia and innovation to be the star of the show.

These foldable phones, or “foldables,” are a mix between the classic flip phone and the touchscreen capabilities of modern smartphones. Hardware technicalities have prevented wide-scale developments of these types of phones, as folding touch-sensitive glass is not an easy undertaking.

Phil van Haaster, a professor of mechanical engineering at California Baptist University who previously worked in the manufacturing of Apple hardware and patents, said many challenges exist with that type of design. 

“No matter how you look at it, this will be double thickness when folded unless the single layer thickness decreases — another huge thermal and power challenge,” van Haaster said.

Failed attempts at making foldable smartphones were mocked for their lack of creativity; consumers felt companies were using the tech merely to cater to a past age of communication technology. 

Samsung is added to a growing list of companies, including Motorola and Huawei, trying to make their foldables the best in the marketplace.

Conrad Beattie, sophomore electric engineering major, said he believes these phones may just be a fad consumers ultimately reject.

“Foldable smartphones are an interesting idea but ultimately I think it’s just another way for companies to make phones break easier,” Beattie said.

While Beattie does not see the phones necessarily as impractical, the current risks and high costs outweigh the reliability found in traditional smartphones. There are, however, aspects that consumers and everyday tech users may overlook when it comes to this technology.

While some may be critical of foldables and their long-term market stay, companies are not unaware of criticism and potential flaws. 

For Samsung’s research and development team, that means constantly looking for new ways to stay ahead of the curve and capture the attention of customers.

Dr. Bob Namvar, professor of economics, says the approach of companies like Samsung is nuanced, but they must always stay aggressive.

“Because of severe competition internally and internationally, this department is very active to respond to the updated market demand to get more and more market share,” Namvar said.

Samsung’s war with Apple over technology patents makes their innovations ever more important: If they out-innovate, they can out-sell.

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