Samsung flexes with OLED tech
But it still needs help from LG
Welcome back to Multicore for Tuesday, May 23rd.
I do enjoy a good Samsung Display demo. I'll always remember my former Verge colleagues hustling at CES 2013 to get photos of a prototype phone with the first curved OLED display, which I'd end up reviewing in commercial form as the Galaxy Note Edge the following year.
My slightly flippant thesis for that review was that if ever we're to get to a future where phones can be "scrunched up like paper and stuffed into a pocket", devices like the Galaxy Note Edge would be a worthwhile step along the way. Obviously, we're not much closer to realising the dream of scrunchable batteries and motherboards. But we do have foldable phones — Samsung's current Galaxy Z Flip 4 and Oppo’s Find N2 Flip are basically 2010s smartphones that you can fold in half for easier pocketability. And that all comes back to Samsung Display’s forward-thinking development of flexible OLED panels.
So, I think it's always worth looking at Samsung Display demos, like the ones being exhibited right now at SID Display Week 2023 in Los Angeles. Remember that none of these are actual products — they're just Samsung Display's ideas for what it could do with its core panel technology.
The most dramatic concept is the Rollable Flex. Rollable screens have been around for a while; they wrap part of the panel around an internal spindle in order to reduce or expand its viewable size based on the scenario. LG sells ludicrously expensive rollable OLED TVs that shrink into their own stand, and various companies from TCL to Lenovo have shown off smartphone-sized demos.
Samsung Display's Rollable Flex is a little different. In the demo, it expands from 49mm on the vertical axis to 254.4mm; that's more than five times the screen area in its unrolled state. In other words, it could stretch to roughly the size of an 11-inch tablet and shrink down to something narrower than any modern smartphone.
Clearly there are questions here about thickness and durability, and the bezels look pretty chunky. Still, this is potentially a more transformative take on the rollable smartphone, which is still yet to ship in commercial form. LG got close before shutting down its entire mobile division a couple of years ago.
The Flex In & Out is another new concept from Samsung Display. Right now, large-format foldable phones fold in on themselves with a 180-degree hinge, so you need an external screen to use them in their folded state. Some early efforts like Huawei's Mate X folded the opposite way so that the screen was always on the outside, but it seems the industry has moved away from this idea because of durability concerns.