It’s easy to feel like we’ve hit a snag when it comes to smartphone innovation. Most features have already been done, and every “new” design ends up being the same slab – give or take an edge or two – at the end of the day. At the same time, this stagnant era can also be a good thing, as it gives manufacturers a reason to focus on enhancing other features of a phone such as battery life and overall performance.
Still, it’s nice to see a big change every once in a while, and judging from rumors, reports, and sneak peeks, we may be in for a major shift in smartphone design as early as next year. According to these rumors, we can reasonably expect to see smartphones and tablets with flexible displays relatively soon.
The idea of flexible displays aren’t anything new. Reports of fully functioning flexible displays have been around for several years now. We’ve seen demos of these flexible displays in various trade shows, and have even had indication that flexible displays were, at the very least, on the way, with devices like the Samsung Galaxy Round and LG G Flex and G Flex 2. Although these two devices weren’t as flexible as we’d expect when using the term “flexible”, they did have more flexibility than your typical smartphone.
In regards to the future of flexible displays and phones, we’re apparently looking at taking things back. Like, 15 years back. Think: Clamshell.
For a while, I didn’t know what to think of the “flexible display” rumor. I just didn't envision how it would work, but the above image of a clamshell smartphone from Samsung definitely helped shape my current view of flexible displays, which is that I’m actually kind of excited about them now.
You see, I like having a larger display on my phone. It’s not always easy for me to hold, but I’ve started to accept (or maybe embrace) the fact that small smartphones don’t seem to be making a comeback anytime soon, if ever. My phone gets used to stream movies and TV a lot, so having a larger display is convenient. Although I eventually get used to holding it, there’s no denying that larger smartphones can still cause problems when fitting in jean pockets or convenient carrying methods. Even wristlets, which I use when going out but don’t necessarily want to haul around my Mary Poppins purse, have become ridiculously large for a wrist. Like old clamshell mobile phones, a clamshell smartphone seems like a good solution for making large smartphones fit in small places.
There was also a couple of demonstrations of flexible displays during Lenovo’s announcement of the Moto Z earlier this year. One of the demonstrations showed a smartphone that could be wrapped around your wrist. Another was a smartphone with a 4-inch display that could be unfolded into an 8-inch tablet.
It really seems like flexible displays are the next big move for smartphones. According to rumors, we could be seeing devices will flexible displays as early as 2017, although on Lenovo’s front the timeline was a little further out, predicting between 5 and 10 years for their models. Either way, it’s an exciting development for the smartphone industry, and one that I find I’m excited to try out for myself.
Readers, what are your thoughts on flexible displays? Do you think that they’ll end up being considered gimmicky, or useful? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!