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Flexible phones: everything you need to know

Flexible Phone

Gone are the days of flat phone screens. In 2013, we saw Samsung switch up the game with a curved display on the Galaxy Round, which was shortly followed by LG unveiling the G Flex. Since then, curved displays have become more mainstream with the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge leading the way. Now, the question is: what’s next?

There has been an undeniable buzz around flexible phones with Samsung teasing they may well release not one, but two bendable phones in the coming months. But, apart from looking cool, what would be the use of a bendable phone? What are the benefits of a flexible screen? What are the barriers to creating them? With so many questions surrounding this new technology, here’s everything you need to know about flexible phones.

What is a flexible screen?

First thing’s first – what is a flexible display? Flat screens traditionally use liquid crystal displays (LCD), which include all the basic things you need to make a screen, such as a backlight, polariser and so on. Flexible screens, on the other hand, use organic light emitting diode (OLED) displays. These are significantly simpler in construction, meaning they’re thinner and easier to mould into a curved display.

We’ve started to see OLED technology used on devices like the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, but the next step is to develop a material that won’t break under the strain of being flexed repeatedly. This is where the next generation of advanced display technology comes in, which Samsung could reveal this year.

What are the benefits of a flexible phone?

While the benefits of a curved display are limited, flexible screens are a whole different story. The biggest advantage is durability – we could well be saying goodbye to smashed screens when our phones are accidentally dropped. Bendable phones could flex upon impact, as they may use plastic instead of glass. This would also mean devices will be thinner and lighter, with more shapes for manufacturers to experiment with than the standard rectangular screen.

A bendable phone could also be made smaller, meaning it would be easier to carry around – imagine being able to fold your phone up into your pocket! What’s more, flexible screens provide new possibilities in the realm of wearable technology, as Lenovo recently demonstrated with the CPlus that can wrap around your wrist like a watch.

Lenovo Cplus

Lenovo Cplus

What are the challenges facing flexible phones?

Creating a durable, flexible screen is only part of the journey to creating bendable phones. A major barrier to flexibility is making the internal components flexible, too. Phone batteries are notoriously straight and unyielding, which can short circuit when bent or worse, explode. Samsung and LG have been working on developing flexible batteries for years, but nothing has made it to market yet.

Another issue facing flexible phones is producing these in high volumes. It’s likely we’ll see the first iteration of this technology cost a lot to make and consequently, even more to buy. Phones that are expensive to manufacture are unlikely to be made in large batches, which could mean getting your hands on one may be difficult.

So, when will we see the first flexible phone?

As the pioneers of display technology, we had our suspicions Samsung would be the first big name to bring flexible phones to market. This was confirmed when the South Korean company announced they plan to release two innovative devices at the start of 2017.

Rumour has it one will be able to fold much like a compact mirror, while the other will be able to unfold into an 8-inch tablet. Code-named Project Valley, many believe the devices will be unveiled at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this month.

We don’t know about you, but we can’t wait to see these revolutionary new phones!