The Samsung Developer Conference (SDC) is the place where Samsung shows off the latest software innovations powering its new and upcoming hardware. The theme for this year's event was 'turning now into next', with the company finally unveiling its plans for folding smartphones, new advancements in AI and its plans for 5G. Here are five biggest announcements from the event (so far.)
Folding smartphones are coming
This is the big one. At SDC 2018, Samsung's mobile president DJ Koh unveiled the technology that will power the company's first folding smartphone: Infinity Flex Display.
"Infinity Flex Display will operate on an entirely new mobile experience and form factor," Samsung said. "Our goal is to bring meaningful innovation to life and address consumer needs with one breakthrough form factor.”
This will allow users to do things they couldn’t do with an ordinary smartphone with the larger, immersive display providing vast improvements to media playback and multitasking. For example, users will be able to use three active apps simultaneously. You can read more about Samsung's folding phone plans here.
One UI is a “reengineered” design interface for Android that has been built to assist with one-handed operation. It does this by automatically ordering relevant content on the bottom half of the screen using simplified, readily identifiable icons. The idea is to provide a continuous, seamless experience with icons appearing when you need them and disappearing when you don't.
In addition to reducing onscreen clutter and making navigation more intuitive, this will also be an essential feature for foldable phones. Without it, the screen real estate would simply be too vast to operate singlehandedly. The One UI Beta will be launching in select markets this month.
Big improvements to Bixby
Samsung's mobile AI assistant has really struggled to excite the public. It's no exaggeration to say that most Galaxy owners usually launch the app by accident thanks to the ill-placed Bixby button.
Samsung isn't giving up on the platform yet however - far from it. In 2019, a swathe of new features will be coming to Bixby with an aim of transforming it into a scalable AI platform that will support a wide range of products and services.
But the biggest change is the decision to open Bixby to all developers via the Bixby Developer Studio. This is the same suite of developer tools used by Samsung internally. The fruit of developers' labour - dubbed Bixby Capsules - can then be sold as standalone apps in the Bixby Marketplace. Developers won't be limited to phones either, with capsules scalable across everything from voice-controlled smart TV apps to AI-powered home appliances.
“The progress made to Bixby and SmartThings opens a new chapter where third party products and services can be integrated to the AI and IoT platforms at scale," Samsung's mobile president DJ Koh explained during his keynote.
Bixby will also be launching in five new languages in the coming months: French, German, Italian, Spanish and British English.
An explosion in mobile gaming
Smartphone manufacturers are finally starting to take mobile gaming seriously - and Samsung is arguably leading the pack. The company famously partnered with Epic Games this year to bring the insanely popular Fortnite to its tablets and smartphones. That's just the beginning.
“Our strategy is to enhance the gaming experience on Galaxy devices, to make them a go-to platform for gaming. That is why we have collaborated with major game developers, like Epic Games," Thomas Ko, global head of service innovations explained. "Galaxy smartphones make up the world’s largest platform for Android games. This, coupled with our technical expertise and widespread capabilities in this area, including Game Launcher and Galaxy GameDev, put us in a unique position to support developers and enhance their ecosystem.”
Ko promised gamers that more video game exclusives will be coming to Samsung's mobile devices in the months to come. Tellingly, Epic Games' CEO Tim Sweeney, Xbox's Sarah Bond and Niantic's John Hanke will all be giving presentations at SDC 2018. Expect more announcements to come.
Connected homes made easier
During the SDC keynote, Samsung also outlined its commitment to making connected IoT devices work seamlessly together via the new SmartThings app. This will now be supported by a SmartThings Developer Workspace. This will make it easier for developers to connect their devices and services to the platform via new tools including the SmartThings Cloud Connector, SmartThings Device Kit and SmartThings Hub Connector. Samsung is also launching an upgraded Works with SmartThings (WWST) certification program which will help third-party devs to get their apps up and running on the platform.
Lifehacker travelled to SDC 2018 as a guest of Samsung.