Foldable smartphones have recently been announced by not one, but two different companies in recent weeks; Samsung and RoyoleFlexPai. These two phones have fully functioning touchscreens that are able to fold like a sheet of paper. And while many have written the technology off as a gimmick, others feel that it will be the future of mobile devices.
It’s not the first time that a flexible display concept has been put forward by phone companies – in the past, we’ve seen a number of displays that have been bent and contorted in labs. But this is the first time that the technology is starting to be made publicly available, and it could be the start of an entirely new technological arms race for the future of mobile.
What Makes Foldable Better?
This is a question that has been permeating the industries behind the foldable smartphone concept. When we already have a massive range of phones and tablets on the market that all work extremely well, why introduce an entirely new technology into the mix. Samsung, at their annual development conference, shed some light on the answer. They stated that when the device is opened fully, it works as a tablet, and when it’s closed; it’s small enough to fit in a pocket comfortably.
It’s also because many companies have reached a plateau on the sizes of the devices that are coming out. The size of screens has been a selling point for most of the devices that have hit the market in recent years, such as the iPhone XS Max – which is essentially the same as the previous iteration of iPhone, save for the size – but developers can’t keep making displays bigger and bigger; there will come a point where they are not longer considered mobile.
How They’re Made
While Samsung hasn’t released any specific details about the technology driving their new foldable tech, we can speculate to a degree. Some believe that their screens use something called Y-OCTA, which essentially embeds the touch sensor directly into the display, meaning that there are far fewer layers as compared to the conventional touch screens that we use today. But this is just one method, and it’s believed that there are many more companies making up their own ways of folding screens.
The most common problem that the technology faces right now is the amount of stress that the screens receive for each folding. Folding any material over and over causes stress damage, weakening the structural integrity of the stress points until something eventually fails. What that means for consumers is that foldable smart phones are going to be a lot more fragile than the waterproof, drop-resistant phones that we’re using at the moment, but that may change in the future.