How about an iPhone with a bendable display?

By , May 14, 2012

A report out this morning from Far East suggested Apple could be interested in adopting Samsung’s new flexible OLED screens, presumably for use in iPads, iPhones and iPods. The South Korean conglomerate last year supplied Apple with nearly $8 billion worth of processors, NAND flash chips and screens for iOS devices.

Now, Samsung has reportedly received a “huge” number of orders for flexible OLED displays and supposedly Apple is among the phone makers interested in this technology. An iPhone with a flexible display, anyone? Just a pipe dream, you say? Bear with me for a second, there’s more to this than meets the eye…

Citing industry sources from Asia, The Korea Times reported on Monday:

Future versions of Apple’s iPhone, the definitive mobile device credited for taking the Internet beyond the personal computer, might bend and twist.

At least that seemed to be what Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Kwon Oh-hyun was hinting at when he revealed that the company is getting “huge” orders from electronics makers for it futuristic lineup of flexible organic light emitting diode (OLED) displays. 

And according to the obligatory industry sources, “Apple is likely to be one of the handset makers asking Samsung to provide them flexible screens”.

Apple purchased nearly $8 billion worth of Samsung’s LCDs and chips last year and is expected to buy $11 billion worth of parts this year, the publication noted.

But just how realistic an iPhone with a flexible display is?

To answer this question, one needs to look no further than at what Samsung is planning.

Last October, PCWorld was able to confirm with the Galaxy maker that the company was “aiming to launch mobile phones with flexible displays” in 2012.

Here’s what their spokesperson said:

The flexible display, we are looking to introduce sometime in 2012, hopefully the earlier part. The application probably will start from the handset side.

Here’s a nice flexible Galaxy smartphone concept, credited to designer Heyon You.

Here, another one.


Who said only Apple fanboys claim the rights to jaw-dropping conceptual renders?

Now, Samsung isn’t joking.

Their plant in Tangjeong, South Chungcheong Province is already confirmed to produce some 960,000 flexible OLED sheets by the end of this year. Of course, 960,000 units is a far cry from the tens of millions of LCDs Apple uses in iOS devices sold every quarter.

Samsung Electronics chairman Kwon Oh-hyun insists that flexible OLED displays are here to stay:

We will be mass producing flexible OLED displays from the latter half of this year as the demand from our clients is significant.

Rival LG Display is also planning to produce flexible displays for mobile products that will debut in LG Electronics products.


Samsung Display showed off concept devices featuring flexible OLED displays at ECS 2011. Images courtesy of OLED-Display.net

We should note at this point that Apple’s long been rumored to adopt OLED displays for iOS devices, but materials and manufacturing challenges have made it difficult for Samsung to satisfy its own appetite for OLED displays, let alone Apple’s.

And no, OLED panels are not mature enough for that rumored Apple television set.

Due to ongoing issues with low yield rates and high production costs, Samsung has only been able to use OLED displays sparingly in its flagship mobile devices.

OLED technology provides for brighter and more vivid colors, deeper blacks and lower power consumption compared to ordinary LCDs found in iPhones. Flexible technology augments these OLED benefits with greater durability. For example, flexible OLEDs can survive impacts from a hammer, says Samsung Display.

As noted by an analyst from a U.S.-based investment bank quoted in The Korean Times article, Samsung wouldn’t invest in flexible OLED technology if Apple didn’t share its enthusiasm:

If Samsung finds increasing industry demand for a futuristic product like flexible displays, it’s hard to imagine Apple doesn’t have something to do with it.

As seen in Samsung’s CES 2011 presentation right below, their bendable OLED display is rollable and can adopt curved appearances.

And here’s another clip with Samsung Mobile Display showing off a 4.5-inch flexible AMOLED display prototype featuring electro activity polymer.

Strictly theorizing, this technology could allow for the creation of a future iPhone that could fold into a wrist watch-like appearance.

It’s not just Samsung, Microsoft is also envisioning a post-PC future with flexible displays all around us.

Here, have a look at their Productivity Future vision.

With Microsoft developing computing concepts that call for bendable displays and Samsung already at work developing smartphones and tablets featuring flexible display technology, it wouldn’t be a stretch to assume that Apple too is at least toying with the flexible iPhone concept.

But even if prototypes of a flexible iPhone exist somewhere in Apple’s design lab, that’s not to say the company would market such a product in the foreseeable future, if ever.

Steve Jobs briefly addressed foldable display at the D8 conference, opining the technology is “many, many years into the future”.

But then again, Jobs also said Apple would never build a video-capable iPod and insisted the company hadn’t been building a mobile phone.

One thing’s for sure: someone out there is gonna mainstream mobile gadgets with bendable displays.

Summing up, a flexible iPhone could be in the cards, at least in theory.

Just don’t count on it happening soon.

Thoughts?

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  • Anonymous

    One word: Why
    Why would apple want to make a iPhone with bendable display?

    • Anonymous

      Agree, I can’t imagine what possible use it could be given. But then again, if technology is somehow moving forward, I can’t complain.

    • http://twitter.com/Dongiuj DonGiuj

      So it doesn’t crack.

  • http://twitter.com/scottyopper Scott Opper

    I don’t see a point. You still need a solid housing for the chips and battery. Why make the screen fold out? I don’t see Apple doing this at all.

  • http://twitter.com/pranavshankar93 Pranav Shankar

    I love microsofts’s Vision of the future
    I seriously hope I live long enough to see all that become a reality….Surrogates anyone?;P

    • Jude Johnpeter

      I am afraid it will take very long time to achieve what Microsoft shows on the videos because not everyone use microsoft as an operating system today and for the features in the video to come together everyone must be using Microsoft OS

  • http://twitter.com/IbrahimRIAlBora Ibrahim R.I.AlBoraey

    let others do it, Apple comes with more unique, and more amazing ideas, such as retina display.
    My self, I will not prefer it.
    But how about Hologram Display, or Laser Display, it will be so cool, but power waste.

    • Anonymous

      “Apple comes with more unique, and more amazing ideas” … Is that a joke? I’m an avid Apple product user but c’mon, they steal most ideas from rivals and the jailbreak devs, i’m not arsed like but that’s the truth .. The Retina display, as nice as it is, is far from Apple technology, the screen isn’t made by them and there isn’t anything in it that Samsung themselves don’t make it’s just that Apple chose to focus on the PPI and the res of the screen but just like with cameras, pixels aren’t everything. The Super Amoled + screens that Samsung make look every bit as good as the Retina displays but then why wouldn’t they.

      I love Apple products, design mainly and build quality but i’m not a fanboy who thinks they are the best at everything and are the first at everything, as far from the truth as that is they often improve existing features, copied or not they often improve them which is something you have to love about Apple, if an idea’s good then why not use it, just make it better !!

      • Anonymous

        Solid response, dude.

    • Anonymous

      Regardless of their utility, if bendable OLED screens are not unique and innovative, what is? “Retina Display” is just a fancy name for adding more pixels to a screen… It’s no rocket science. It IS really good looking, but nothing extraordinary.

  • Ignacio Irigoyen

    If Apple use this, I think they will use it because of the durability and the ability to survive impacts, but not for the bending part

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Xavier-Cheng/100003453115293 Xavier Cheng

    Why do companies pour funds from research and development for this? It’s so gimmicky.

    • Anonymous

      It’s called technology … Do you think people 20 years ago imagined they’d have devices like they have today?

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_NBPZ3CBKWA33XW575DSXCLFZBI north

      The more R&D money you spend the bigger the tax breaks. That’s why. Ever researched why GE doesnt pay corporate tax and gets billions of dollars back from your hard earned income tax due to its R&D depts.
      Imagine if these billion dollar companies actually paid their fair share of taxes. Well, I’m sure you’d quickly understand that the USA wouldn’t be trillions of dollars in debt. Every 1$ lobbying is an average $15-30 return on investment when their political puppets take power and back grant tax credits for the huge companies.

  • Anonymous

    I can’t see Apple ever doing this until they could make a device that consisted purely from this screen with every component somehow hidden inside, when Apple decide to make a phone with an awful flip style screen then it’s time to try something else.

    • Anonymous

      A smart company could make a “small” screen unfold into something big (or huge).
      Apple would never do this because there would be moving parts and people would require a brain to use a feature like that; they don’t want “having a brain” to be a requirement for using their products.
      That’s why Samsung went for the “designed for humans” (who’re not afraid to use their brains) as opposed to Apple’s “designed for brainless sheep” (who only care about dumbed-down dull-looking toys)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1595420643 Simche Apple Konstantinovic

    Wow THIS is cool, but i just cant seem to imagine an iPhone with that type of screen, maybe an android phone perhaps? I just hope they change the design on the upcoming iPhone, for now :)

  • http://twitter.com/MCaudebec Maxim∑

    Honey! Don’t forget to flatten the display I think its bent again………………….

  • http://twitter.com/djtrlxX DJ t r I xX

    Baaaaallliinn

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001356195704 Brady Thomson

    This would be so annoying for me, I’m kind of OCD about things being somewhat perfect. I’d spend most of my time with the phone trying to straighten it back out to the point it looks somewhat decent.

  • http://twitter.com/Dongiuj DonGiuj

    Wow, look at some of the components in an iPhone. Samsung. Not sure exactly why so many people slate Samsung.
    If Samsung bought apple, IF, and left apple to keep doing what they’re doing but used Samsung’s branding, would you buy it? Yes or no?

  • http://twitter.com/Chindavon Chindavon

    I can see this technology on a Quarterback’s wristband. It could hold all the plays and much more. Looks like it could survive constant impact.

    • Anonymous

      “constant impact” sounds like a physical impossibility to me…

  • Ra Woojin

    i am proud to be a South Korean

    • http://twitter.com/Dongiuj DonGiuj

      Better hope that your country isn’t patented by apple. Otherwise south Korea will become…Apple.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jlabore Joe LaBore

    I for one would love it. Imagine an iPad size device rolled up to the size of a toilet paper core and still be functional. The phone would still work rolled up with the numbers being shown on the exposed screen. Need more display or want to watch a movie just unroll it. Flexible electronics have been around a long time so there is no reason the entire device cannot be flexible. Imagine the device being built into the back of a work glove or combat glove or even a medical glove to use while doing surgery. Too many uses to imagine them all.

  • Hyr3m

    *cough* old news *cough*

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kenny-Chew/573558986 Kenny Chew