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flexible display

Contributor(s): Matthew Haughn

A flexible display is a visual output surface that is designed to be able to withstand being folded, bent and twisted. Typically screens which use flexible displays are made of OLED displays. Flexible displays are becoming more prevalent in foldable technology such as in smartphones, which are designed to be folded or closed like a book.

Flexible displays are useful in allowing the device to be stored in a smaller space, like a pocket while providing a screen size that is more enjoyable for the display of media. Flexible displays can make for better multitasking in mobile devices. In the case of smartphones, foldable displays can eliminate the need for a tablet as a secondary device for some. A folding display’s main draw is the cache of something new and futuristic. This cache was enough to bring significant attention to the first products to bring flexible displays; notably including the Samsung Galaxy Fold or the Motorola Razr.

Flexible tech can also be used to make ultra-thin displays without the fragility of glass screens. The massive wallpaper TV made by Samsung is very thin, yet you can watch it flex when picked up to no harm. Lenovo also has a prototype notebook with a foldable display as well as a prototype phone that folds into a smartwatch.

Types of flexible displays

Typical flexible display technologies include E-paper and OLED displays. E-paper is not suited for motion due to low refresh rates and high blurring. As such most products that have been coming out and are generating excitement are flexible OLED (FOLED).  

Foldable smartphones

The Galaxy Fold is the Android-based smartphone that was released in April 2019 was awaited with much promotion and fanfare. Since then, it has become but has been plagued by issues. As soon as review samples came out, it became clear the device was very susceptible to fine debris getting in the back hinge of the device and causing graphical issues on the display.

Apple also has a patent for a foldable concept and is potentially expected by 2020-2021. Apple currently uses an OLED screen in certain phone models as well. And even though the fold isn’t seen, Apple still uses enthe flexible display to its advantage -- bending the bottom half of the screen in on itself to eliminating the need of a bottom bezel.

Motorola has also released the foldable Razer, in lieu to its past flip-phone of the same name.

Huawei also has a foldable phone, the Huawei Mate X. Aside from higher specifications in the hardware, Huawei may have the leg up in reliability. The main draw for many is the larger screens, both when closed and open.

BOE is a Chinese manufacturer that makes a number of flexible screen OLED devices. BOE has smartphones with both foldable and encased flexible displays. The company is working on printable OLED technology.

Here is a video describing how flexible displays work, specifically surrounding around smartphones. 

This was last updated in December 2019

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