New Samsung folding phone aims to bust smartphone slump, to cost nearly $2K

SAN FRANCISCO -- Samsung unveiled a highly anticipated smartphone with a foldable screen in an attempt to break the innovative funk that has beset the smartphones market.

The phone, announced Wednesday in San Francisco, will be called the Galaxy Fold and will sell for $1,980 when it is released April 26.

Consumers willing to pay that hefty price will get a device that can unfold like a wallet so it can work like a traditional smartphone with a 4.6 inch screen or morph into something more like a mini-tablet with a 7.3 inch screen.

When fully unfolded, the device will be able to simultaneously run three different apps on the screen.

"Get ready for the dawn of a new era," declared DJ Koh, who oversees Samsung's smartphone division. The new phone, he said, "answers skeptics who said everything has already been done."

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SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 20: DJ Koh, President and CEO of IT & Mobile Communications Division of Samsung Electronics, holds the new Samsung Galaxy Fold smartphone during the Samsung Unpacked event on February 20, 2019 in San Francisco, California. Samsung announced a new foldable smartphone. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Samsung is hoping the Galaxy Fold will spur more people to upgrade their phones and reverse a recent slump that saw its smartphone sales fall 8 percent last year. But some analysts were skeptical.

Phones like the Galaxy Fold "are likely sell to a very limited market of technology aficionados who like big screens and have big wallets," said IDC analyst Ramon Llamas.

Samsung also released new Galaxy S10 phones that boast fancy cameras, sleek screens covering the entire front of the devices and at least 128 gigabytes of storage — important features to consumers shopping for phones.

Samsung Electronics President and CEO of IT & Mobile Communications Division, DJ Koh, speaks on stage during the Samsung Unpacked product launch event in San Francisco, California on February 20, 2019. - Seeking to rev up demand in the slumping smartphone market, Samsung on Wednesday unveiled a folding handset, becoming the first major manufacturer to offer the feature. (Photo by Josh Edelson / AFP)

The new phones are able take wider-angle shots than previous models and can charge other devices, including wireless headphones and smartwatches. A fourth S10 model, due out this spring, will have faster wireless speeds through the emerging 5G cellular network.

But those improvements aren't a big leap from the smartphones released during the past few years by Samsung, Apple and other top manufacturers. With the pace of smartphone innovation seemingly locked in baby steps, consumers are holding on to their existing devices for longer periods than they have in the past.

That's main reason worldwide smartphone sales dropped 4 percent last year, according to the research firm International Data Corp.

Consumers' reluctance to upgrade has been compounded by smartphone sticker shock, which the Galaxy Fold seems unlikely to alleviate. Prices for some existing phones models have soared above $1,000 .

Samsung is offering a slightly smaller S10 model for $750 in an attempt to make smartphones more affordable, but the higher-end models sell for $900 and $1,000.

All three S10 models will come out March 8, with pre-orders starting Thursday.

Samsung trumpeted its 10th anniversary lineup ahead of a major mobile device conference in Barcelona next week. Huawei, which is threatening to overtake Apple as the world's second biggest seller of smartphones, has promised to use the Spain showcase to preview its own device with a foldable screen and the ability to connect to 5G networks as they become operational during the next few years.

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