Futuristic-looking bendable tablets and smartphones have captured our imagination for years.
Whether it’s the folding tablets found in Westworld or the many book-like slates with foldable pages in Microsoft’s future vision videos, a phone that folds out into a much larger device is dreamlike.
Samsung is now trying to make these wild concepts a reality.
The Galaxy maker showed off its new Infinity Flex Display yesterday, a display technology that will allow a tablet-sized screen to fold into a device that approximates the size and shape of a smartphone.
While we’ve seen flexible and bendable wearable devices, this is one of the first times we’ve seen such a display in a phone that’s rumored to ship in 2019.
Samsung’s device was “disguised” by what appears to be a chunky case, and shown only under dim light, but it’s far more than just concept art.
Samsung is actually using two separate displays to create its foldable phone — one on the inside, and a smaller display on the outside — unlike Royole’s FlexPai, which uses a single folding display on the outside of the device.
Samsung’s internal display is 7.3 inches with a 1536 x 2152 resolution (4.2:3). It folds in half to reveal a second display on the front of the device.
This second “cover display,” as Samsung calls it, functions as a 4.58-inch phone interface with a resolution of 840 x 1960 (21:9).
It’s also flanked by much larger bezels at the top and bottom compared to the internal display. Although it looks very stocky, Samsung says the device hiding inside the disguise is actually “stunning.”
This combination of displays has given us an early glimpse at what to expect from foldable phones in 2019 and beyond. As glass is not pliable, Samsung has had to develop new materials to protect its new display.
The Infinity Flex Display uses a polymer that Samsung says is both “flexible and tough,” meaning it can keep its strength even when folded and unfolded “hundreds of thousands of times.”
Samsung has combined this with a new adhesive that laminates the various display layers together to allow them to flex.
None of this is glass, though, so it could feel a little different than what we’re used to with modern phones, tablets, and touchpads.
Foldable phones are the obvious initial market for this screen technology, but manufacturers will get far more ambitious as the display technology matures. Samsung is also promising rollable and stretchable OLED displays in the future.
Imagine folding or rolling a 55-inch TV into something that will fit into your bag, or finally replacing pen and paper with a foldable tablet. It sounds unbelievable right now, but we’re only at the very beginning of our flexible future.
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