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For some time now there have been rumors that South Korean technology giant Samsung is working on the world’s first foldable smartphone. So far, there has been no evidence to clarify the rumors, until a report from Korean news site ETNews said Samsung could finally be unveiling a prototype model later this year.

According to the report, a prototype will be launched and given to partners so they can test the foldable phones and assess the demand from consumers. However, it is very unlikely that a commercial release of a foldable Samsung device will be available this year. “Thousands” of the devices will be made at first, says the report, with mass production and a proper launch expected for 2018.

Whether or not there would be strong demand for a foldable smartphone, there’s no denying it would be pretty cool – and useful. Having a bendable smartphone would enable the user to shrink the size of the device when it’s not in use. Unveiling such a unique product could also see Samsung move ahead of its main rival Apple for control of the premium smartphone market.

The report by ETNews says Samsung showed an early prototype of a bendable smartphone to some “major mobile network providers” at Mobile World Congress this year in Barcelona. PC Advisor reported that the project is referred to as “Project Valley” and “Galaxy X”.

However, Samsung spokespeople have not commented on the report, only saying “Samsung does not comment on rumor and speculation.” But a patent application by Samsung that came to light in November could provide some evidence of the company’s intentions. It shows a device that has a fold in the middle of the screen, letting the user close it. Once unfolded, the phone looks more traditional.

It’s important to remember, though, that technology patents aren’t always a guaranteed sign of an upcoming product launch. If Samsung does decide to launch a bendable smartphone, it could look very different to the patent look. But the images do provide a fascinating look at how Samsung engineers envision a bendable smartphone.

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