Cell phone manufacturers are experimenting with new flexible glass, leading many to wonder if consumers will see foldable, bendable and unbreakable smartphones in the near future.
Flexible technology that should be arriving this year could revolutionize screens so that they can bend and fold up.
Apple’s rumored iWatch supposedly uses flexible technology. It is allegedly much like a slap-bracelet – with even the face wrapping around a person’s wrist. Apple just posted and pulled down a job listing this month for a design engineer specializing in flexible display technology.
Samsung Electronics introduced a flexible prototype this year, but like others faces many obstacles. There are not only technical issues with flexible display, but also issues of finding a cheap way to mass-produce materials.
“It becomes a product designer's paradise — once the technology is sorted out,” said Jonathan Melnick, who analyzes display technology for Lux Research.
Corning, the manufacturer who supplies glass to Apple, announced Willow™ Glass last year. Willow Glass has the potential to be wrapped around a device or structure, according to Corning’s website. However latest reports said the ultra-slim, flexible glass, may not be ready for production for several years. James Clappin, head of Corning’s glass technology group, said commercialization for Willow is not ready, and besides glass has limitations.
"You can bend it, but you can't keep flexing it," said UK consultant Adrian Burden. He says plastic, while it is more sensitive to its environment, will still likely be the future of flexible display.
Designers also have to figure out how to make the entire device bendable, not just the display.
Screen technology, currently dominated by liquid crystal displays (LCDs), weighs heavily on a device. New thinner, lighter designs would allow tablets and phones to be featherweight.