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Investing in Foldable Smartphone Tech

Written by Jason Stutman
Posted February 23, 2019

After years of speculation and hype, South Korean technology giant Samsung has finally revealed the world’s first consumer-ready foldable smartphone.

Dubbed the Galaxy Fold, the trailblazing mobile device will launch as soon as two months from now at a starting price of $1,980. It will come in multiple models including a 4G LTE and a 5G version.

Although the product has not been formally reviewed just yet, the Fold has so far been received well by both the mainstream media and the market.

Goldman Sachs has already called the Fold a “potential problem” for Apple, and two Chinese stocks relating to flexible panel technology — BOE Technology Group and Tianma Microelectronics — are looking red-hot. Respectively, those positions are up 45.6% and 87.0% since the start of the month.

The question now, though, is whether or not Samsung’s Galaxy Fold will live up to the hype. Today, we’ll take a look at the device and share our take on what this tech means for investors in the months and years to come.

More importantly, we’ll talk about the real reason investors should be paying attention to Samsung’s recent product reveal and the best opportunity to turn a serious profit from the tech surrounding it.

The Current State of Foldable Tech

Not to be confused with yesterday’s flip phones, foldable smartphones aim to be an entirely new kind of consumer device, one that Samsung is hoping can ultimately dethrone the conventional form factor made iconic by the iPhone.

A foldable smartphone is best conceptualized as a hybrid between a smartphone and a tablet. When unfolded, the device looks and functions like a small tablet, offering significantly more screen space than a traditional smartphone. When folded, the device sports a smaller screen on the front and the ability to slide into your pocket.

At least that’s how it’s supposed to work on paper.

In practice, technical challenges have limited the commercial appeal of foldable smartphones. While thin and flexible displays have existed for years, designs continue to be bogged down by processing and power requirements (the batteries and circuit boards don’t bend). Samsung’s Galaxy Fold is no exception.

In short, this translates to foldable phones having a thickness problem. Opened up, the Galaxy Fold will be just 6.9 mm thick, significantly thinner than an iPhone XR (8.3 mm). Folded, though, we’re looking at a minimum thickness of 13.8 mm. The Australian Financial Review reports a thickness of 17 mm when folded, though that number is unconfirmed.

For perspective, that’s more than 2 mm thicker than the first-generation iPhone, which came in at 11.6 mm, at the very least. Given a decade-long trend of smartphone OEMs racing to build increasingly thin form factors, Samsung is taking several steps back in that regard.

For those of us who carry our phones in our pockets, this makes the Galaxy Fold relatively unappealing. That’s particularly concerning for Samsung, because Android ownership is driven in greater force by male users (54%) than by female users (46%).

In other words, the majority of Samsung’s target market is likely to find the Galaxy Fold too unwieldy for everyday use. While suitable for a purse or tote, it’s difficult to see the device living in too many pockets.

The Future is Foldable

While Samsung’s Galaxy Fold may not be primed for the masses, I would hesitate to call the company’s foldable ambitions a gimmick, as others are, this early in the game. Like conventional smartphones before them, foldable phones will likely continue reducing in size until they become viable for the mass market.

And if the Fold wasn’t telling enough that foldable phones are poised to make their way into the mainstream, Apple’s latest patent filing should be. Just last week, the company published an application for “Flexible Display Devices,” signaling that it, too, is considering a foldable smartphone.

Chinese smartphone giant Huawei is also confirmed to be developing a foldable smartphone, which, for what it’s worth, already looks infinitely better than Samsung’s take on the technology based on early demos.

If I were a betting man, I would venture to say that 2021 will be the year foldable phones really begin to take hold. For now, though, the technology is at a stage of adolescence, enough so that any serious investment consideration can be placed to the side.

A More Urgent Investment Opportunity in Tech

With that all in mind, Samsung’s most recent product event wasn’t all pie-in-the-sky ambition. In addition to the Galaxy Fold, the company is also rolling out four models of its new Galaxy S10 phone.

Of these four models, the most exciting is undoubtedly Samsung’s 5G-enabled S10, due to be released in the second quarter of 2019. The phone will mark the first flagship 5G phone on the market, a significant milestone in what’s primed to be the next generation of mobile networking.

Unlike foldable tech, investors won’t have to wait very long for the benefits of 5G to materialize. With every major OEM now planning to launch a 5G phone by 2020 at the latest, the timing is right to begin investing in 5G technology today.

We’ve been screaming it from the rooftops for months, but right now is the prime opportunity to get in. As for which stocks to buy and where to look, my best advice is to review our free 5G presentation here.

Until next time,

  JS Sig

Jason Stutman

follow basic @JasonStutman on Twitter

Jason Stutman is Wealth Daily's senior technology analyst and editor of investment advisory newsletters Technology and Opportunity and Topline Trader. His strategy for building winning portfolios is simple: Buy the disruptor, sell the disrupted.

Covering the broad sector of technology and occasionally dabbling in the political sphere, Jason has written hundreds of articles spanning topics from consumer electronics and development stage biotechnology to political forecasting and social commentary.

Outside the office Jason is a lover of science fiction and the outdoors. He writes through the lens of a futurist, free market advocate, and fiscal conservative. Jason currently hails from Baltimore, Maryland, with roots in the great state of New York.

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