The 2013 Samsung Smartphone: It Will Bend

Squish it, fold it, bend it. It looks like this is how it’s going to roll with Samsung for 2013.  Researchers from Samsung are now working on these flexible handsets, which will hopefully see a release sometime next year.  This flexibility is made possible by Organic Light Emitting Diode(OLED)  technology.

BBC reports that Samsung is confident that OLED smartphones will be “very popular among consumers worldwide.”  Says a Samsung spokesperson, the 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.”

Samsung is not the first company working on bendable and wearable smartphone technology. Says BBC, the concept for assembling flexible electronics has been around since the 1960s with the first foldable solar cell arrays. In January 2004, Philips announced that it was preparing to mass produce foldable displays.  In February 2004, the company unveiled its first prototype for a flexible, ultra-thin, ultra-light QVGA active matrix 5-inch display with 320 X 420 resolution.   The Nokia Research Center (NRC) in collaboration with the Cambridge Nanoscience Centre (United Kingdom) also has been researching flexible and transparent materials for their Nokia Morph Concept.  The nanotechnology will make flexible yet remarkable strong Morph devices possible. Another player in this field is Sony, which first commercialized the OLED TV with its XEL-1 11” TV model. Early this year, rumors had it that Sony shelved its OLED TV production. But hopes for a rollable TV resurfaced after Sony and Panasonic announced a partnership to mass-produce OLED panels.

Flexible screens actually hit the mainstream a few years back with the Amazon Kindle e-reader that used a non-rigid optical frontplane display.  However, most displays today cannot be bendy because of the costs of production. To make devices fully flexible, both optical backplane and frontplane, batteries, and other components have to be bendable.  LG Electronics, a South Korean conglomerate, is the first to produce the fully flexible plastic e-ink displays which are cheap to produce and more power-efficient than flexible OLED displays.

In CES 2011, Samsung demoed flexible AMOLED screens. However, rumors of a 2012 release of a flexible Samsung smartphone dubbed the Samsung Galaxy Skin remained a fantasy. Samsung tells UK magazine T3 that the Skin was just a concept phone by design students and that Samsung was not involved in the project.  Now the grapevine is churning out that Samsung will be the first to deliver smartphones with shatter-proof screens.

It seems as if consumers and the mainstream media have been too excited for fully bendable gadgets and that excitement went too far ahead of the companies actually researching the innovation. Let’s hope that 2013 will be the year we can truly say ‘it will bend.’

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