Tech: Samsung might upstage Apple's new iPhone by unveiling its foldable phone in 2018

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DJ Koh, president of mobile communications business at Samsung.

A senior Samsung executive has hinted once again that the company's long-awaited foldable phone is close to completion. If it's ready by November, it may upstage Apple's new iPhone. But part of the delay seems to be down to Samsung scrabbling for a purpose for a foldable device.

  • Samsung executive DJ Koh said the firm could unveil its foldable phone, nicknamed the Galaxy X, in November.
  • It follows Koh's previous hints that the phone is almost ready, but also complicated to develop.
  • A November reveal could potentially upstage the new iPhone, which will likely be unveiled at Apple's September event, but go on sale in November.

Samsung has hinted it might be ready to upstage Apple's new iPhone this year as it prepares to launch a foldable phone.

DJ Koh, chief executive of Samsung's mobile division, told CNBC on Monday that the company may show off a foldable phone at the Samsung Developer Conference in November — around the time the new iPhone would be hitting the shelves.

Koh didn't say when the foldable phone would actually be available to buy, although he has previously thrown out vague hints that it might be this year or 2019. In an interview with Business Insider last month, DJ Koh said the phone was "not far away."

"It's nearing completion — we're currently focused on the user experience," he said at the time.

If Samsung shows off its foldable phone this year, it may encourage some potential iPhone buyers to hold off. The company could use the boost, given the sluggish sales for its previous flagship, the Galaxy S9.

Not much is known about the foldable phone, nicknamed the Galaxy X, except that it will likely be the size of a small tablet, be a little bulkier than a normal phone while folded, and that it will almost certainly be pricey. You can read our full roundup of likely Galaxy X features here.

Part of the delay seems to down to Samsung trying to design a foldable phone that will appeal to users over a normal tablet or jumbo-sized phone. "You can use most of the uses … on foldable status. But when you need to browse or see something, then you may need to unfold it," Koh told CNBC. "But even unfolded, what kind of benefit does that give compared to the tablet? If the unfolded experience is the same as the tablet, why would they [consumers] buy it?"

Apple, meanwhile, has sent out invitations for its iPhone event on September 12. The firm is expected to launch three new iPhones, but they are likely to be iterative designs rather than major innovations like 2017's iPhone X. All three phones are expected to sport the iPhone X's "notch" design, and its edge-to-edge screen.

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