What you should know about flexible displays (FAQ)

Author James Mash 14.10.2013. | 23:21

Samsung, LG, and others have been showing off flexible displays and even a prototype phone for years, but it’s only now that flexible displays are going commercial.

Samsung’s Galaxy Round raises a lot of questions about what a flexible display is and isn’t, what the word really means, and just what kinds of benefits a bendable display would bring to a smartphone or any other gadget.

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  • What is a flexible display anyway?

When Samsung (or LG, or anyone) talks about a flexible display, they’re talking about the organic light-emitting diode, or OLED, layer — located beneath the cover glass — that’s now made using flexible materials (like plastic) rather than rigid glass.

  • How is the Samsung Galaxy Round different from the curved screen of the Galaxy Nexus?

The Samsung Galaxy Nexus (and Nexus S) boasted a slightly curved screen that was meant to more snugly hug your cheek. In this case, it was the glass top that contoured, not the OLED material below.

  • Does the Galaxy Round bend?

No. For the Galaxy Round, Samsung is using a 5.7-inch “full HD super flexible AMOLED” display, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to flex in your hands. The device is deeply curved, but the phone’s body is rigid and will not bend when you move it.

  • Then why do people keep saying it’s flexible?

Part of the confusion stems from the many definitions of what flexible means. Like we mentioned, the flexion can refer to just the OLED or LCD, to the glass, or even to both. Beyond that, there are many forms that a flexible display can take. In the case of the Galaxy Round, the display is conformable, meaning it’s not flat. “Contoured” is another word that’s often used.

Companies making such devices bend the display at some point, say vertically in the case of the Round, but then fix the whole caboodle in place. Another type of flexibility is “bendable.” Think of these sort of like credit cards. They flex a little bit, but don’t completely fold in half.

Then there’s a third category, foldable displays, which do just what you think. Finally, there are rollable displays, often called the holy grail of flexible displays. To picture this type, just think about a perhaps less extreme version of a scroll, or a Fruit Rollup, and you can see where the concept’s going.

  • Why would anyone want a flexible display anyhow? What are the benefits?

The benefits for a curved display like the Galaxy Round aren’t immediately clear.

However, there are some pretty significant benefits for displays that can flex. For one, they could be more durable (especially when you drop them), largely because they might use plastic, which has some give, instead of glass. Plastic also can make the devices thinner and lighter, and it can allow for products in different shapes beyond the standard rectangular screen.

Note that this may not always be the case. Even plastic can break if you stress it enough, and glass-makers are also designing flexible glass, but more on that below.

Still, the durability issues raises the question: Why not just make a regular phone with a plastic display? We’ll likely see that too, some experts say, but there are some things a flexible display can do that others can’t.

Imagine being able to fold up your phone or tablet and put it in your pocket, or unroll a screen to serve as a map. These could even be incorporated into clothing or jewelry or other items where the screen needs to have some give. The future potential for flexible displays is huge if hurdles are overcome, even though we may not yet know exactly what their uses will be.

  • What else is a flexible display good for?

Although we have yet to determine just how practical or even desirable a smartphone is that you can bend and twist, there are some good, practical uses for display technology that can be formed into S-curves and still respond to touch. Here’s one: a wraparound touch display that covers the band of a smartwatch or other wearable. And here’s another: an all-touch car dashboard that spills far beyond the confines of its usual 8-inch rectangular home.

Flexible displays — on both the inside and out — are going to be a hot topic in the months ahead. Whether gimmick or convenience, it’s going to be fun to watch what happens next.

read more at cnet

Author James Mash 14.10.2013. | 23:21
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