Samsung Electronics has unveiled a nearly US$2,000 folding smartphone in a bid to top the technology of Apple and Chinese rivals and reignite consumer interest amid slumping sales.
The Galaxy Fold will go on sale on April 26 and take advantage of new and faster 5G mobile networks. The device looks similar to a conventional smartphone, but then opens like a book to reveal a display the size of a small tablet at 18.5 cm.
The device "answers sceptics who said that everything that could be done has been done," DJ Koh, chief executive of Samsung Electronics, said at an event in San Francisco. "We are here to prove them wrong."
Samsung remains the world's largest smartphone maker with nearly a fifth of global unit sales but under performed a slumping market last year. Chinese rival Huawei Technologies -- whose Mate series of phones also command premium prices -- gained market share.
Other Chinese makers like Xiaomi have also been increasing prices, leaving Samsung to defend its turf against upstart rivals in addition to its longtime foe Apple.
With the foldable phone, Samsung is going on the offence on two fronts in the smartphone race: It is offering an eye-catching new feature with the big, bending screen and the first 5G connection in a premium phone, a feature analysts do not expect Apple to match until 2020.
Samsung is also making improvements to its flagship Galaxy S devices and plans to offer a 4G version of its folding phone.
It also challenges the notion of what a phone can cost, debuting at nearly twice the price of current top-of-the-line models from Apple and Samsung itself.
Samsung also introduced several accessories to compete against Apple, including a pair of wireless headphones called Galaxy Buds.
The headphones include wireless charging, a feature that Apple has promised to put into is competing AirPods but has not yet released.
Samsung also said that its new Galaxy phones will be able to wirelessly charge its headphones and new smartwatches by setting the accessories on the back of the phone.
10 times faster
Along with the folding phone, Samsung also added new cameras and a 5G version to its Galaxy series of phones.
With the 5G versions of its flagships, the Korean electronics maker looks to have beaten Chinese rivals in the 5G race, although the device will operate only on the small number of networks launching later this year. Apple is not expected to release a 5G smartphone until late 2020.
Rival smartphone makers are expected to announce 5G models at next week's Mobile World Congress, the industry's top annual event, in Spain. Samsung said its 5G handset would be available in the early summer.
The Galaxy 10 series needs to appeal to consumers who are reluctant to upgrade for only incremental technological improvements in performance.
(Reporting by Stephen Nellis and Paul Sandle; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)