A phone that folds out into a much larger device is dreamlike. Samsung is now trying to make these wild concepts a reality. 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 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. Just as smartphones started off with plastic resistive displays and stylus input, before the iPhone showed that capacitive touch on glass was the future, this foldable era will include compromises before the technology advances. Samsung’s device, while pocketable, didn’t look particularly thin compared to modern smartphones. The bezels when folded for use as a phone are also giant compared to modern edge-to-edge flagships, and the folding display Samsung has chosen makes the device very tall when closed.”Folding phones are the 3D TV of the mobile world,” proclaimed Wall Street Journal tech columnist Christopher Mims on Twitter. Samsung, LG, and many other TV manufacturers famously pushed 3D TVs to consumers at various annual Consumer Electronics Shows, but they never really caught on. They were seen as a gimmick to sell more 1080p TVs without offering a superior viewing experience. Not everyone agrees that foldable phones will flop, though.
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.