Samsung Electronics Co Ltd has wowed the smartphone industry with the first mainstream foldable screen, accompanied by a nearly $2,000 ($2,700) price tag that generated heated debate as to whether it may prove too expensive to revive slumping sales.
The South Korean tech giant unveiled the Galaxy Fold which resembles a conventional smartphone, but which opens like a book to reveal a second display the size of a small tablet at 18.5 cm (7.3 inches). It will go on sale on April 26.
At its launch event in San Francisco on Wednesday, Samsung upped the surprise factor by briefing analysts and journalists on widely anticipated aspects ahead of time, such as 5G versions of its existing top-end Galaxy S phones.
The unveiling of the foldable device came as a shock to many in the auditorium.
"I am blown away," said Patrick Moorhead of Moor Insights & Strategy, adding the phone could help Samsung rejuvenate its mobile business, whose lead is under attack from China's Huawei Technologies Co Ltd.
"I believe you can innovate your way out of a mature market," he said, noting that when Apple Inc launched the iPhone in 2007, most industry watchers believed the market had matured for $100 "candy bar" phones without touch screens.
Bob O'Donnell of TECHanalysis Research said the work Samsung had done with Facebook Inc, Alphabet Inc's Google and Microsoft Corp to adapt applications to the new screen was important.
He said though Samsung had teased the folding phone before, "to see it in action, to see the software - I was like, Wow. It's hugely important that the software experience be good."