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Samsung Readies Partners for New Hybrid, Foldable Tablet-Smartphone

Samsung aims to spur mobile device growth with Galaxy Fold.

Jeffrey Schwartz

February 22, 2019

6 Min Read
Galaxy Fold

Samsung is priming the channel and those in its mobile solution provider partner program (MSPP) for the new Galaxy Fold and the rollout of several upgraded smartphones that include among the first that support emerging high-speed Wi-Fi 6 and 5G networks.

The new devices, launched Wednesday at Samsung’s Galaxy Unpacked conference in San Francisco, was staged ahead of a blitz of announcements expected at next week’s annual Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

At the same time, despite weakening demand for smartphones, Samsung is making a bold statement that rebukes widespread reports that the smartphone and tablet markets are mature, oversaturated and maxed out on the innovation front. Samsung believes it will prove critics wrong with the launch of its first commercial foldable device, which the company has touted over the years as an R&D effort since 2011, most recently last summer, and believes will create a new mobile device category.

Koh-DJ_Samsung.jpg

Samsung’s DJ Koh

“The Galaxy Fold breaks new ground not just because it defies categories, it breaks new ground because it answers skeptics who said everything possible has been done,” said DJ Koh, president and CEO of Samsung’s IT and Mobile Communications division, speaking at this week’s Unpacked event. “Today marks a new beginning — a shift that will see the smartphone’s role at the center of our lives grow stronger as the value that technology delivers grows deeper.”

Galaxy Fold will be available during the next quarter to consumers through AT&T and T-Mobile in the second quarter, and to commercial customers through channel partners on April 26, said Michael Coleman, Samsung’s vice president of mobile channel sales. “The Fold is really an amazing phone,” Coleman said in an interview.

In tablet mode, it has a 7.3-inch display with a hinging mechanism built with interlocking gears that can fold into the form of a 4.6-inch phone. The Galaxy Fold’s Multi Active Window lets users display and multitask with up to three applications at a time. A feature called App Continuity is designed to ensure a user can fold the device without interruption of a task.

Here’s our most recent list of new products and services being offered by agents, VARs, MSPs and other channel partners.

Coleman believes the Fold’s form factor and multitasking capability will give partners new opportunities to create innovative solutions for customers. Because Samsung is releasing the SDKs for the App Continuity capability, ISVs can build applications that utilize its multiscreen user experience, Coleman added.

“We really need the community to begin doing new things, we don’t even know how much can be done yet,” he said. “That’s where the channel can really step up and take this platform and really build out some truly innovative.”

Unique Form Factor

The main tablet display includes a QXGA+ Dynamic AMOLED screen and the 4.6-inch HD+ Super AMOLED cover with a 10MP selfie…

… camera, a rear triple camera and front dual cameras. The base model ships with 12GB of RAM and 512GB of storage. It has two batteries.

Priced at $1,980, the Fold will cost more than purchasing a separate Galaxy phone and tablet. It remains to be seen how extensive an appetite there is from business users, and consumers alike, for a foldable device. Some feel this will set the stage for a new category of hybrid devices, even if the Fold’s initial concept morphs over time.

“I think that Samsung’s Fold is amazing, people are going to go nuts over it,” said Bob O’Donnell, president and chief analyst of TECHanalysis Research. “Yes. I know, it’s ridiculously expensive, but it’s going to be the device that people are going to want to have, especially those who love gadgets.”

Bob Egan, chief research officer and founder of the Sepharim Research Group, was also intrigued by the Fold but questioned its appeal to mainstream users. “It was all about a very interesting demonstration of the art of the possible, but not necessarily the art of consumer desires,” Egan said, noting the thickness of the Fold., but also because it’s a concept many users are yet to grasp.

Yet, O’Donnell believes the Fold will rack up more sales than critics expect. “To be very clear, it’s not going to be a huge seller but remember the first iPhone was not a huge seller either,” he said. “This is really closer to a truly pocketable computer than anything we’ve ever seen. In that regard, it certainly has the potential for business because you can start to see commercial apps that are difficult to do on the phone with the ability to multitask.”

Channel-Ready Devices

Partners can offer unlocked versions of its devices, including the new Fold, through Samsung’s distributors, which include Ingram Micro, Tech Data, Synnex and Vertex Wireless. Coleman said he believes the new Fold, and the portfolio of phones that all support the new Wi-Fi 6 (aka. 802.11 ax) standard as well as its one 5G-enabled phone, will bolster Samsung’s efforts to help partners build out or expand mobile solutions practices, especially those in the MSPP program.

Since introducing that new program when he took over mobile channel sales two years ago, Coleman said sales through the channel doubled year-over-year both in 2017 and again 2018. A key contributor to that growth is the support functions Samsung and its distributors have enabled to offer commercial customers business-grade services that carriers can’t, according to Coleman.

“One of the things we’re seeing really good growth in is enhanced services that customers sometimes can’t get from the carriers in terms of kitting, staging, configuration, pre-loads, customization…

…and 24×7 support that includes break-fix,” Coleman said. “And then in partnering with the carriers and becoming a variety of master agent, there’s a spirit of cooperation because the carriers want to extend their reach as well and provide more B-to-B-specific services and functions and these partners can help them do that.”

Steve Shaffer, CEO of IT services provider Zunesis, which deploys mobile networks and devices from Apple, Samsung and others for commercial customers, believes a market will emerge for the Fold. “I think it’s super cool, and the $2,000 price doesn’t scare me,” Shaffer said. “It’s a fascinating device and people will like the fact that it can run multiple applications simultaneously.”

New Phones Sport Higher Speed Connections

While the new Galaxy Fold looks at new usage scenarios, the new Galaxy 10 portfolio also include some novel features, including the ability to charge other phones and peripherals such as earbuds, improved cameras and a touch-sensor on the front screen for authentication. While such features are welcome, they don’t typically drive upgrades.

The most likely feature that will compel upgrades are support for higher speed networks. In the U.S., the major carriers including AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint will have the new Galaxy 10, a larger Galaxy 10+ and a lower-cost Galaxy 10e on March 8. Samsung said Verizon will have an initial exclusive on the new Galaxy 10 5G phone, slated for release before the end of June, though other carriers later this summer.

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About the Author(s)

Jeffrey Schwartz

Jeffrey Schwartz has covered the IT industry for nearly three decades, most recently as editor-in-chief of Redmond magazine and executive editor of Redmond Channel Partner. Prior to that, he held various editing and writing roles at CommunicationsWeek, InternetWeek and VARBusiness (now CRN) magazines, among other publications.

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