Last February 14, Samsung made waves as they unveiled their latest cutting-edge gadgets during the Samsung Galaxy Unpacked launch. Although the Galaxy S line has always been a fan favourite, the audience was equally captivated with the company’s latest addition to the foldable smartphone market: the Galaxy Z Flip.
Unfolding the mystery
The foldable phone trend is promising for many, but it’s particularly exciting for printed circuit board (PCB) manufacturers. If you weren’t aware, PCBs are thin boards with conductive pathways to connect the different components on it such as transistors, resistors, and integrated circuits. There are various types of PCBs that are commonly used today, such as rigid PCBs and flexible PCBs; each one uniquely designed to run different functions. For instance, rigid PCBs present the most common image of a PCB—the green plate that motherboards are made of. Flexibles are as versatile as its name implies, so they’re usually found in smartphones, printers, other devices that need PCBs that fold over edges or wrapped around corners.
However, the concept of folding smartphones presented a new challenge for PCB manufacturers as they would need a new kind of plate entirely. In fact, foldable tech employs a very unique PCB build—one that uses elements from flexible boards, rigid-flex boards, high-density interconnect boards, and substrate-like PCBs. The result is a screen that’s able to fold without its circuitry getting messed up.
Compared to previous foldable phones from the Galaxy line (such as the Galaxy Fold), the Galaxy Z Flip has a number of features that not only need a PCB that could bend and retain its circuitry but can also detect movement and perform separate functions. For instance, if you were watching a YouTube video on full screen while the phone is in full-display mode, the video collapses to the top half the moment you fold it at a 90-degree angle. This feature, called “Flex Mode,” is when the Z Flip can run two apps simultaneously, each one taking up one-half of the display. Samsung also has a built-in three-stop hinge in the foldable part of the screen, which is what holds the top part upright when partially opened.
Other main features of the Z Flip include a 6.7-inch display with ultra-thin glass, 8GM of RAM, 256GB of storage, as well as 10mp/12mp selfie and back camera respectively.
Future of Foldable Devices
While Samsung was the first brand to take off with the concept of a foldable screen, plenty of other tech companies have started manufacturing foldable phones of their own. Motorola has actually released a similar phone to the Z Flip last November—a 6.2-inch foldable smartphone that is a new version of their iconic Motorola Razr. It’s a bit short on the processing power and camera optics that the Galaxy line boasts, but it’s more durable than other foldable phones on the market.
Xiaomi is even experimenting with foldable phones that bend outward, rather than inward. The patented designs released last November show a dual-hinge, tri-section folding phone that could stand by itself on a flat surface.
Huawei has also revealed a phone that’s similar in design, though it only folds with one hinge.
With so much activity on the consumer market right now, this year could be the true beginning of a new era of smartphones.
The Galaxy Z Flip is now available in the US and Korea for $1,380. It comes in two colors: purple and black. A gold version will be released in the coming months for select countries too.