Dec 10 2012

The Smartphone of the Future: Twist It, Bend It, If You Please

Flexible displays are headed to a mobile device near you.

If you’ve ever damaged or broken a smartphone screen, you’ve probably secretly wished that the phone could’ve taken a licking and kept on ticking. The good news? Help is on the way.

Manufacturers have been demoing seemingly magical bendable display prototypes at technology conferences for a while, but BBC News reports that manufacturers are preparing to roll out mobile devices with bendable displays in 2013, with Samsung likely to be the first horse out of the gate:

But rumours abound that next year will see the launch of the first bendy phone. Numerous companies are working on the technology - LG, Philips, Sharp, Sony and Nokia among them - although reports suggest that South Korean phone manufacturer Samsung will be the first to deliver.

Samsung favours smartphones with so-called flexible OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode) technology, and is confident that they will be "very popular among consumers worldwide".

Their screens will be "foldable, rollable, wearable and more, [and] will allow for a high degree of durability through their use of a plastic substrate that is thinner, lighter and more flexible than… conventional LCD technology," says a Samsung spokesperson.

Interestingly, E Ink, which is already in use in Amazon’s Kindle devices, is perfect for flexible displays. Manufacturers could in fact make bendable devices with E Ink today, but the challenge is not only in the display — it’s also in the backplane, where the transistors connect to the display, the BBC reports:

To have a fully flexible finished product, both parts of the display have to be flexible - the optical frontplane and the backplane, where transistors are - as well as the device's battery, the outer shell, the touchscreen and other components.

If flexible smartphones come about in the new year, we may witness the dawn of a whole new era in smartphone technology. As elegant as the iPhone is, what with its glass display, who wouldn’t love a damage-resistant device that could weather nearly any storm?

<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/oled-display/5329009271/sizes/l/" target="_blank">Erich Strasser/OLED.net</a>