Futuristic look bendable tablets and smartphones have captured our imagination for years. Whether there are folding tablets found in Westworld or the many book-like slides with collapsible pages in Microsoft's future vision videos, a phone is expanded into a much larger device, dreamy. Samsung is now trying to make these wild concepts come true.
Galaxy maker showed its new Infinity Flex Display yesterday, a screen technology that will allow screen size on the screen to propagate into a device that approximates the size and shape of a smartphone. While we have seen flexible and bendable portable devices, this is one of the first times we've seen such a screen shot in a phone that's rumored to send in 201
Samsung actually uses two separate monitors to create its folding phone – one on the inside and one smaller screen on the outside – unlike Royolys FlexPai, which uses a single foldable display on outside of the unit. Samsung's internal display is 7.3 inches with a resolution of 1536 x 2152 (4.2: 3). It folds in half to display another screen on the front of the device. This second "cover display", as Samsung calls it, acts like a 4.58-inch phone interface with a resolution of 840 x 1960 (21: 9). It is also flanked by much larger fittings at the top and bottom of the internal screen. Although it looks very thick, Samsung says that the device hiding inside the disguise is actually "awesome".
This combination of displays has given us an early glimpse of what to expect from folding phones in 2019 and beyond. Since glass is not flexible, Samsung has had to develop new materials to protect its new display. Infinity Flex Display uses a polymer that Samsung says is both "flexible and tough", which means it can hold the strength even when folded and unfolded "hundreds of thousands of times." Samsung has combined this with a new glue that laments the different screen layers together to allow them to bend. None of this is glass, though, so it may feel a bit different to what we are used to with modern phones, tablets and touch pad.
Just as smartphones started with plastic resistant monitors and stylus input before the iPhone showed that capacitive touch on the glass was the future, this collapsible time would include compromises before technology goes on. Samsung's device, while lockable, does not look very thin compared to modern smartphones. The legs when folded for use as a phone are also giant compared to modern edge-to-edge flagships, and the folding screen Samsung has chosen makes the device very tall when closed.
"Folding phones are 3D tv in the mobile world," proclaimed Wall Street Journal technology colonel Christopher Mims on Twitter . Samsung, LG, and many other TV manufacturers pressured 3D TVs to consumers on various annual consumer electronics applications, but they never took it. They were seen as a gimmick to sell more 1080p TVs without offering a superior viewing experience. Not everyone agrees that folding phones will flop, though.
"Someone discusses" if "foldable or rollable mobile monitors are the future of smartphones, the only question is when and by whom," explains Patrick Moorhead, an industry analyst at Moor Insights and former AMD director. "The core of a folding smartphone is that the user can benefit from a larger screen, but can still fit it into the pocket, the suitcase or the purse."
In 2011, the gigantic 5.3-inch screen on the Galaxy Note was met with guffaws in technical circles. Today we only call phablets, phones. Similarly, the curved screen of the often ridiculous Galaxy Note Edge and Galaxy Round was eventually native to Infinity Displays found on Samsung's modern S-Series flagship. If folding phones follow a similar journey, Samsung's first device will not fully capture the design's potential – instead it will mark the beginning of an emerging battle over this exciting display technology.
"This is not just a concept," says Justin Denison, SVP for mobile product marketing on Samsung. "The breakthroughs we have made in display materials have been matched by industry breakthroughs. As a result, we will be ready to launch mass production in the coming months."
The emergence of mass production means that device makers will be able to Pick this screen just as they already do with Samsung OLED panels. Huawei plans to lay out a folding handset next year. Lenovo and Xiaomi have also bothered their own prototypes, and LG also works with own flexible OLED monitors and TVs that roll up in a box. The 2019 consumer electronics exhibition in January may be an initial battlefield for folding devices, powered by Android official support for folding screens.
Google support will be the key, as this kind of new form factor will require a hardware and software connection. Samsung creates its own Multi Active Window software that allows its folding phone to display three apps simultaneously. Multitasking is just one aspect of software, and Samsung along with Google must optimize the entire Android user interface and experience for these types of devices. Apple traditionally deserves hardware and software integration. In fact, there are rumors that a folding iPhone may appear over the next two years.
Foldable phones are the obvious initial market for this display technology, but manufacturers will be far more ambitious as the display technology expires. Samsung is also promising rollable and stretchable OLED monitors in the future. Imagine throwing or rolling a 55 inch TV into something that fits your purse, or eventually replacing pen and paper with a folding tablet. It sounds incredible right now, but we are only at the beginning of our flexible future.