Flexible Screens - Has the Future Arrived?

Flexible Screens - Has the Future Arrived?

The Dawn of a New Age

February 23, 2019, Bruno Jacobson

Foldable phones. They're here. Anticipated for quite a while, Samsung has finally unveiled, and officialized its first folding phone - the Galaxy Fold. With a price tag of about 2,000 US dollars, it might not sell like an iPhone. But like the iPhone before it, it could be a game changer, and like the iPhone, it could redefine how we think about mobile phones - or screens.

Flexible Screens - Has the Future Arrived?


When Samsung unveiled the Samsung Fold at its "Unpacked" press event, it would be surprising if all those watching weren't blown away. Not because it is the best of its kind or the first of its kind, but because it represents the future. Now within arms reach. 


The Samsung Fold isn't for everyone. It's expensive and it seems more like a Beta version of what is to come. CNET quotes Avi Greengart, an analyst at Techsponential, saying, "The Galaxy Fold is not intended to be a mass-market product, at least not yet. It's a halo product for Samsung, aimed at early adopters."


And that's true. It could be just used at getting the early adopters to work as beta testers, to further improve Samsung's new line of smartphones. It is also excellent marketing. By doing this, Samsung has made everyone else look slow, and has made itself look innovative. But trick or not, it doesn't matter. The truth is, there is going to be a foldable phone on the market backed by the largest smartphone maker in the world, available to you if you want. And it does seem to work.


If that doesn't make you think, just take a second. For many people, this is the stuff of science fiction. We actually have the capability, and the means, to bring to the market screens that fold and unfold and work.


And though Samsung was the first to unveil it, it is not the only company working on this. It is thought that Huawei, Xiaomi, LG, Google, and Lenovo also have their own foldable phones in the works.


Indeed, the market for flexible displays as a whole is growing. In 2017, it was valued at 3.7 billion US dollars. By 2023, this number is expected to balloon to 22 billion US dollars.


Most of this growth will come from OLED displays, which are lighter and thinner than LCDs, and don't need any backlight or filters. This means that the displays can be bent, rolled, and folded.


We have seen these flexible displays tempting areas other than the smartphone industry.


One example is the Wove, a prototype from the electronics company Polyera, announced back in 2015. What's the "Wove?" In essence, it's a flexible screen which you can wrap around your wrist, like a watch. This isn't just a smartwatch. It can bend and stretch, like a wristband, redefining what we think of like a watch. 


According to its founder, Phil Inagaki, the Wove runs a variant of Android, has 4GB of storage and 512MB of memory. Unfortunately, the company has since changed into a new entity, Flexterra, with the Wove project being paused without reaching the consumer. 


Nevertheless, it's a good indication of the possibilities that flexible screens bring with them. From smartwatches to smartphones to... laptops and tablets?


It's not difficult to imagine a future where your laptop no longer has a keyboard. Instead, you can just fold part of the screen which turns into a digital keyboard, and unfolds again when you are browsing the internet or watching something. 


Who knows - maybe in the future you won't even need more than one device. If this technology takes off, it could even achieve the impossible - a smartphone with a screen sufficiently thin that can unfold to the size of a laptop. This may be far fetched, or never happen, but it does make one dream of the possibilities.


So has the title begs, has the future arrived?


Maybe not yet. But we're getting darn close. 

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