Samsung's W2018 flip phone has a variable aperture camera

It switches between f/1.5 and f/2.4. Perhaps this tech will end up on the Galaxy S9?

Smartphone makers are always pushing for the fastest-possible camera aperture, and until today, the record was held by LG V30 with its f/1.6 lens. But it didn't take long before Samsung hit back with an even lower f-stop.

Earlier today, the Korean giant announced the W2018 which is its tenth extravagant dual-screen flip phone -- likely priced at above $1,500 -- made exclusively for China Telecom's "Heart Of The World" charity series. To our surprise, rather than simply repackaging existing flagship components into this form factor, Samsung actually threw in some new tech this time: not only does its 12-megapixel main camera come with an even lower f/1.5 aperture, but it can also switch to f/2.4 for a deeper depth of field when lighting is ideal.

While this is the first time that variable aperture is applied to a smartphone's fixed lens since the Nokia N86 MP, Samsung was surprisingly quiet about this rare feature. Thankfully, we came across a close-up video of the W2018's main camera in action, and the mechanism appears to be a miniaturized version of conventional aperture blades, except it's limited to two aperture settings. The effectiveness of such variable aperture on a smartphone camera remains to be seen, but at least this gives Samsung a good head start, especially if this tech does end up on the upcoming Galaxy S9 -- we may find out as soon as January.

The camera is otherwise pretty much identical to those on the S8 series and the wide-angle imager on the Note 8: it features large 1.4um pixels, dual-pixel auto-focus and optical image stabilization.

Another first for Samsung's premium line of flip phones here is the addition of Bixby, which started supporting Chinese voice input as of last month. Of course, this means you have a new dedicated button on the side of the phone to toggle Samsung's very own digital assistant.

Much like its predecessor, the W2018 features two 4.2-inch 1080p Super AMOLED touchscreens, a rear fingerprint reader, dual SIM slots, NFC, a 5-megapixel f/1.9 selfie camera and a surprisingly small 2,300 mAh battery. Luckily, the rest is as you'd expect on a modern flagship device: Snapdragon 835 chipset, 6GB of RAM, a storage option of 64GB or a whopping 256GB plus a USB-C port (yes, the W2017 still had a micro-USB port). There's even an iris scanner if you prefer using that to unlock, but it's only accessible when you flip open the phone.

At the time of writing this article, neither Samsung nor China Telecom had yet to confirm the price for the W2018; we tend not to hear about it until much later on (not that any of us outside of China are going to buy one, anyway). But what we do know is that both parties have donated a total of four million yuan (about $605,000) to the China Youth Development Foundation to help build ten "Heart Of The World Samsung Smart Schools" in rural areas next year. Each of these schools will be equipped with PCs, tablets, smartphones and interactive whiteboards, in the hopes of helping impoverished children as well as influencing other schools by training teachers with these equipments.