Samsung may share its foldable phone displays with rivals

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You might not have to buy a Galaxy Z Fold or Z Flip to get one of Samsung’s foldable displays. According to Ars Technica, Korean industry publication ETNews claims that Samsung is ready to offer its folding screen technology to companies other than the company’s own mobile unit.

Samsung will reportedly make 1 million foldable displays available in both horizontal folding (Galaxy Z Flip) and vertical (Z Fold) designs. That may not sound like much when major phone brands sell tens of millions of devices each quarter, but it could represent significant growth for a very young foldables market.

See also: The best foldable phones you can get

There may already be a slew of customers. “Multiple” Chinese phone companies have been developing foldable hardware with Samsung Display, an unnamed industry figure told ETNews. All of those third-party handsets would ship in the second half of 2021, and might include products from Oppo and Vivo.

It wouldn’t be a surprising strategy. Although Samsung tends to reserve its display technology (including foldable displays) for its own products first, its long-term success depends on selling components to third parties. In 2017, for instance, Samsung stood to make a larger profit from iPhone X display and chip manufacturing than it did from producing the Galaxy S8. Wider access would help Samsung recoup its costs without sacrificing its head start.

Samsung’s main challenge is to foster the market for foldable phones after this initial rush. Chinese offerings could help lower the cost of these displays through aggressive pricing and sheer scale. However, companies still have to convince people that foldables are worth buying in the first place — no amount of variety will matter if you still gravitate toward the Galaxy S21 or the latest Oppo Find X. It could still take years for folding phones to hit the mainstream even if Samsung’s rumored approach pays off.

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