Brian Berkeley, head of Samsings display lab in San Jose, has given a keynote speech at CES 2013 in Las Vegas, where he showed off a prototype paper-thin bendable screen which he claimed is “virtually unbreakable”. The prototype was running Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8 where the base, about the size of a matchbox, was rigid with the screen part being extremely flexible, enough to keep working when rolled up. It’s not flexible enough for folding like a piece of paper, however. The screen uses regular OLED technology, which is encased in plastic instead of glass, giving it its flexibility.
This technology has been a long time coming, but has been beset by technical problems, which Samsung appear to have cracked. It seems that one of the biggest problems has been the OLED materials sensitivity to air, which destroy it, therefore needing to be sealed in an airtight chamber. Making this chamber flexible yet airtight as shown here, has been the big stumbling block, until now.
This is purely a demo prototype, with Berkelely not committing to a date when a handset based on it would become available. However, he did say that products based on it are to be called the “Youm” series, which sounds an odd name. I would think an obvious problem would be how to make a touch screen out of it, since there would be very little resistance from the screen to finger pressure – similar to trying to write on an unsupported piece of paper. Still, it’s an amazing product to see and will no doubt find many different uses, perhaps including clothing.
“The concept of the flexible screen has been around for some time, but it finally looks as if Samsung is really going to deliver on that technology,” said Stephen Bell, an analyst with Keystone Global. Sources: Daily Mail, Engadget
In a more conventional application, Berkeley also demonstrated a phone with a display that’s rigid, but bent around the edges of the device, so it can show incoming messages even with a cover over the main screen.