The Fifth Column: Bendy Phones
I have never had problems with any of my mobile phones. I have not washed them, flushed them or broken them through a high speed impact with a wall or the ground. The closest that I have come to breaking a phone is when I dropped my Nokia 5110 on the road, in the rain, this was many years ago. It broke into its three component parts. But once I re-assembled it, it worked without problems, the screen was not cracked or scratched.
Given the rise of smartphones with their ever increasing screen real estate, the possibility of damaging your phone has become more possible. Even with the introduction of Gorilla Glass, it is still possible to scratch, crack and chip your screen. I have had my LG P970 for about six months and have managed to keep its large screen intact. Although I have managed to dent it on one side despite the fact that it has a protective case. I have also almost sat on it a few times when it was in my back pocket. Which is why the news about Samsung’s new screen technology is very exciting.
Samsung has developed a new generation of OLED screen which can be incorporated into flexible, paper-like displays. This technology lends itself to a number of applications because the screen can be rolled or folded. It would also allow a screen to be worn on the wrist, your clothing or as an accessory. In addition to being flexible, the new plastic substrate is lighter, thinner and stronger than LCD technology. A flexible cell phone would be more durable and more resistant to breaking if, for example, you sat on it.
Despite the rather futuristic concept behind flexible displays, the technology has been around since the 1960s and was first used in flexible solar cell arrays. And most recently flexible displays have been used in the Amazon Kindle, the reason why the device is not flexible is because it contains components that require a rigid frame. In addition to OLED technology, researchers are also working on graphene as a material to use in flexible screens. Graphene is one atom thick, stronger than diamond, lightweight and of course, flexible.
The best part is that Samsung may be launching devices with flexible displays in 2013. Analysts are speculating that Samsung will announce their next generation of Samsung Galaxy phones with flexible screens. This may mean that the Galaxy S4 or S5 will have an AMOLED screen which is described as flexible and ‘unbreakable’. I am not too sure that the screens will be unbreakable but the combination of lighter weight and increased flexibility will certainly make the device more resistant to impact damage.
The other advantage of using OLED screens is that they consume a lot less energy than LCD screens. This of course means better battery life which is a key consideration with smartphones. Given that smartphones are used for email, internet access and the all important social networks, a radically improved battery life would be a major selling point.
It is difficult to predict how the new bendy phone technology will develop. We may have translucent screens like those in Minority Report and Avatar. It could also lead to the development of wearable screens and devices. Could we even see the end of conventional phones in lieu of multifunctional devices that we wear on our wrists? It all may sound a bit sci-fi and futuristic but when I had my Nokia 5110 with its monochrome LCD I never imagined that I would ever use a mobile phone for more than making phone calls, sending text messages and playing a few rounds of Snake. The future appears to be a lot closer than we think.