Next year could bring a new twist in the evolution of the smartphone. Samsung are gearing up to produce flexible, unbreakable mobile phone screens that can be bent, twisted and even folded up and put in your wallet.
The South Korean tech giant reportedly has the flexible screens in the final stage of development and will be ready to ship them next year. The breakthrough has been made by through the use of organic light emitting diodes (OLEDs), which are thin and can be put on flexible material such as plastic or metal foil. Samsung is not the only company to have invested heavily in research into flexible screens using OLEDs. Companies including Japan's Sony and LG Display, also of South Korea, have launched prototypes.
However, Samsung is the first to promise a launch date for the technology, with an unnamed source 'familiar with the situation' revealing they will ship in the first half of 2013.
The company's move to produce the flexible displays comes as smartphone and tablet makers search for ways to differentiate their products in a market where customers face a glut of almost identical products.
Vinita Jakhanwal, director of mobile and emerging displays and technology at IHS Electronics and Media, says: 'Flexible AMOLEDs can help Samsung differentiate its products in a smartphone market where most products offer similar products and functionality.'
‘Even if Samsung were not able to able able to commercialise flexible screens straight away, making their screens out of plastic rather than glass would make their devices lighter, more durable and cheaper than rivals'.
A common bugbear with the kinds of touchscreen displays often used on mobile devices is that they are brittle and prone to cracking. Replacing the glass now used with plastic would solve that problem.
Samsung had previously promised to bring flexible displays to market this year, but that deadline came and went without any announcement from the company. However, the company's push for innovation has become more urgent as other display makers are also introducing different technologies for mobile phone and tablet screens.
Sony has been researching the same flexible screen technology since 2002, and showcased a 4.1in flexible OLED two years ago, the same time as Samsung showed off their version of the technology. However, a spokesman for Sony told the Wall Street Journal he couldn't comment on when the company would begin mass producing the displays.
And earlier this year, Apple filed a patent for 'electronic devices with flexible displays' that included features like on-screen keyboards that can be modified to handle concave or convex curves.
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Do you think such technologies have advantages? Would you like to purchase such a model?