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Technology

Samsung and Huawei set to meet again in foldable phone battle

Galaxy Fold and Mate X launches scheduled for September after delays hit both devices

Samsung's Galaxy Fold was initially intended to go on sale in April, but faulty screens delayed its release.     © Getty Images

SEOUL/TAIPEI -- Samsung Electronics said on Thursday it will release its first foldable smartphone in September after fixing issues with faulty displays that came to light during U.S. media previews of the device in April.

Samsung said the improved Galaxy Fold will have a reinforced display panel with new caps to keep out dust and other particles and additional metal layers to protect the device from pressure.

The launch is expected to ramp up competition in the maturing global smartphone market as Chinese rival Huawei Technologies plans to release its own foldable phone the same month, while Apple is expected to introduce its latest iPhone in the fall.

In addition to fixing the faulty display, Samsung said it also upgraded its user experience as well, optimizing more apps and services for the new phone. The company emphasized the ability to multitask on the Galaxy Fold, which has a 7.3-inch display when unfolded. The display measures 4.6 inches folded, meaning it can be held in one hand.

"Now, with Galaxy Fold, you can review charts while talking on a video call, and search information, all at once," said Samsung in a statement. "Galaxy Fold completely reimagines the smartphone, changing the way you interact, communicate and experience everyday life."

Like Samsung, Huawei initially delayed the launch of its own foldable phone, the Mate X. The Chinese company said it has carried out additional testing of the device with carriers and developers and will begin selling it in September.

The timing of the two releases is not coincidental, according to analysts.

"It's interesting that Samsung and Huawei together again target September to officially make their foldable phones available," said Joey Yen, an analyst at research company IDC. "[But] that's part of their hope, to have another round of marketing campaigns [at the same time that] this year's new iPhone, the iconic smartphone, although not a foldable one, will be introduced."

Samsung was the world's biggest smartphone maker by shipments in the first quarter with a 21% market share, according to Counterpoint Research, followed by Huawei with 17%. Apple came the third with 12%.

Some analysts say Japan's export curb on South Korea could affect production of Galaxy Fold, as Japan's Sumitomo Chemical supplies a key display-making material to Samsung. The Japanese government imposed the restrictions earlier in the month, which require domestic suppliers to obtain approval from the authorities to export hydrofluoric acid, photo resists and polyimides to South Korea.

Hydrofluoric acid, also known as etching gas, and photo resists are key materials in producing chips, while polyimides are used for manufacturing display panels.

"An end-product that could be affected is the Samsung Galaxy Fold smartphone. The display of the Samsung Galaxy Fold is produced utilizing fluorinated polyimide film from Sumitomo Chemical, which is a Japanese electronic materials firm," said Tadashi Uno, display research director at IHS Markit.

But Uno said that Samsung has an option to replace Sumitomo. "South Korea-based Kolon Industries could act as an alternative supplier for the Samsung foldable smartphone display."

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