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Saturday 9 December 2017

Flexible Mobile Phone displays: Rumours and realities

Flexible,foldable,rollable displays:When it will hit the market?Reality check and rumours.

LG flexible display
LG flexible display

Content Highlights
  • First bendable e-paper (Gyricon)
  • Samsung bendable smartphone
  • Samsung Galaxy X  rumors 
  • LG flexible display
  • Apple's patent application for flexible display concept
  • Lenovo bendable phone CPlus
  • ITRI and BOE flexible display prototypes

Every smartphone lover is waiting for a smartphone that can be folded or rolled like paper.Let us have check at how long we have to wait for such a product.

First Flexible Display

Flexible electronic paper (e-paper) based displays were the first flexible displays conceptualized and prototyped. This form of flexible displays has a long history.Many companies attempted but failed to design slated for mass production that can be used in consumer electronics. One of the notable among such prototypes was Gyricon put forth by Xerox PARC. Still mass production of e-paper  is expensive.
Gyricon flexible e-paper
flexible e-paper

How Gyricon e-paper works?

Gyricon contains a lots of small spherical beads, sandwiched in between two thin transparent plastic sheet.The beads, each contained in an oil-filled cavity, are free to rotate within those cavities. The beads are "bichromal", with hemispheres of two contrasting colours (e.g. black and white, red and white).  Each side of the bead has  electrical charge (positive or negative), so they exhibit an electrical dipole. When voltage is applied to the surface of the sheet, the beads rotate to present one coloured side to the viewer. Voltages can be applied to the surface to create images such as text and picture.
Cross section of Gyricon flexible e-paper
Gyricon cross section
 They remain fixed in position until another electrical charge is applied to change the orientation of the beads. So, there is no need of power after text/picture is written.This e-paper can be erased and rewrite infinite time(theoretically) by applying corresponding voltages.

Current trends in flexible and foldable displays 

Recently  flexible display market has gained great momentum owing to the competition and usage in various areas likes mobile phones, laptops and other handheld consumer electronic devices. Due to the advent of advanced materials and new technologies, display market is evolving at higher speed.

OLED based flexible displays have gained more attention than any other flexible display technology. Many leading companies have displayed their version of flexible displays in recent times. Apart from prototypes commercial production is yet to begin. Even though there  are many challenges and hurdles  in incorporating  flexible displays in consumer electronics,tech giants  like LG, Samsung, Sharp and Sony are in the brim of it. Commercial release of such display based electronic devices are expected in the last quarter of 2018.

News from tech world hits at commercial release of flexible display devices sooner. Let us have look at where tech companies stand in flexible display technology.

CES 2013: Samsung flexible phone prototype unveiled

Samsung unveiled its flexible phone prototype, running Windows Phone 8 and branded Youm, during a keynote at CES .On stage at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the prototype phone was shown being flexed and bent without any conspicuous colour distortion, with other pre-recorded demonstrations shown on film.
Samsung has been working on flexible displays for a number of years, but its latest demonstration was the first to prove it has already talked to other companies about how it might implement flexible displays.

Samsung brings the foldup phone a step closer with the world's first 'stretchable' display

Recently Samsung has unveiled a radical 9.1-inch stretchable display .A flexible OLED (organic light-emitting diode) screen which could stretch in both direction by as much as 12 millimetres might spell out a new era in phone screen technology, the report says.
Samsung says the stretchy screen will be useful for everything from wearables to in-car displays, and could also lead to a new generation of wearable devices that can be knocked or dropped and simply move back into place.
Samsung flexible and stretchable display
samsung stretchable display
Samsung stretchable flexible display
samsung stretchable display
When the screen is pressed from above, the screen is dented like a rubber balloon, then returns to its original flat shape.The Korean manufacturer revealed the panel at the Society for Information Display 2017 event in the LA Convention Centre..

Samsung Galaxy X: Rumors and news leaks

Samsung has long been rumored to be prepping the Galaxy X for a release sometime in 2017.
Samsung will “test the waters” with the limited run prototype, which may launch in 2018.
The phone is described as having two OLED display panels with a hinge in the middle. Screens without bezels, like the ones used on the Galaxy S8, may be used to create a seamless, one-screen look.
Samsung foldable  flexible display patent application
Samsung flexible display patent application

A patent application reveals a number of renders and illustrates the smartphone’s hinge from a number of angles. Check out the latest photos below.

 Apple seeks new patent for folding displays 

 apple flexible display patent application
The US Patent & Trademark Office has published an Apple patent application for a foldable display. This follows earlier rumors that the company was working with LG on a future foldable iPhone.
‘An electronic device may have a flexible portion that allows the device to be folded. The device may have a flexible display. The flexible display may have a bending region that allows the display to bend along a bend axis when the device is folded’.Patent describes.

The patent describes a display that can be ‘opened and closed like a book’ .Display may include an array of display pixels formed from liquid crystal display (LCD) components, an array of electrophoretic display pixels, an array of organic light-emitting diode display pixels, an array of pixels formed from crystalline semiconductor light-emitting diode dies (sometimes referred to as micro-LEDs), an array of electrowetting display pixels, or display pixels based on other display technologies.
apple flexible iphone concept

LG’s  unveiled its latest OLED screen which is  transparent and flexible

On June 22 2017 LG announced that it’s created the world’s first flexible, transparent 77-inch OLED display.  display is 77 inches on the diagonal with an aspect ratio of 16:9.The screen has a UHD resolution of 3840 x 2160, offers up to 40 percent transparency, and can be fixed with a curvature of up to 80 degrees.
LG flexible display
LG 77 inch bendable display
 On LG’s official website, it is see that company’s goal is to start mass production of FHD Curved OLED and Wide area flexible display by end of 2017.

Currently based on the information available LG is the front runner in flexible display technology. Partnership between Apple and LG in display production  proves above statement to be true.

Apart from above tech giant,s few Chinese entities like ITRI and BOE have invested in flexible display field.

Lenovo Bendable phone 

In 2016, Lenovo unveiled working prototypes of bendable smartphones and tablets. The project was codenamed CPlus. You can wear it around your wrist like a smartwatch.No official release date was announced yet.
Lenovo CPlus phone display

ITRI demonstrates a foldable AMOLED prototype

ITRI flexible display prototype
ITRI flexible display prototype
ITRI is a nonprofit R&D organization engaging in applied research and technical services in Taiwan.
ITRI institute demonstrated a new foldable AMOLED display prototype, saying that its technology is rapidly approaching "commercial standards". It’s developers claims “ITRI has developed a transparent OLED display based on its FlexUP™ substrate. With the advantages of being flexible and transparent, this technology could be utilized in automotive display, e.g. on windshield glass and side windows. This transparent OLED display offers enhanced user experience in the automotive display and thus opens an opportunity for the next generation display. Watch videoRead more about ITRI flexible display

BOE Display's latest flexible and foldable AMOLED display prototypes

BOE flexible display
BOE flexible display
Chinese firm BOE Display(BOE Technology Group Co., Ltd.) demonstrated its first batch of flexible OLED panels made at its new B7 6-Gen OLED fab in Chengdu.  . The production line is the world’s second production line for flexible AMOLED panels and China’s first. The line is expected to break the monopoly enjoyed by Korean companies  Samsung, LG and others. Already, there are indications that Huawei, Xiaomi, OPPO, Vivo and other OEMs are showing interests in patronizing the BOE AMOLED display.  Watch video BOE flexible display 

Conclusion: After going through the latest developments and news and considering the fact that technology is evolving faster than ever, it is obvious that by the end of 2018 foldable and smartphones will hit the market. Already LG has rolled out curved/flexible display panels suitable for TVs, but incorporating flexible displays with handheld devices pose no of challenges. For mass production price also need to be contained. In coming years more researches, investments  and innovations are expected in this field.

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