It’s 2019 and foldable phones have finally landed; after years of rumours and leaks from the likes of Samsung, the technology seems to finally be with us. With two mobile phone giants leading the charge, Samsung and Huawei, it seems foldable phones are here to make the most of 2019.
Flexible displays in general have multiple meanings, but generally, they refer to displays whose form can be temporarily altered without affecting its functioning. In simpler terms, this means displays which can be rolled, twisted, and bent without causing damage.
There has been a surge of interest in flexible screen technology in recent years, with tech giants and the like investing in flexible electronic visual display technology. Most research in this space so far has gone into the applicability of this technology concept to e-readers, other consumer electronics such as televisions, and computing devices. Early technology leaders charging the research on the mobile phone front included Nokia, Sony, and Samsung, with the former first conceptualising the applications of flexible OLED displays in mobile phones in the early 2000s.
Significant advancements have occurred recently to realise the commercial viability of these early-millennium concepts, with Samsung and Huawei’s big reveals of their first official releases, the Samsung Galaxy Fold and Huawei Mate X respectively. While Samsung’s device features an inwardly folding screen, meaning there are two overall screens on the device, one on the ‘inside’ and one on the outer front face, the Huawei Mate X features an outwardly foldable single screen which wraps around to dynamically switch between standard or expanded displays as necessary.
Unfortunately, these new technological mobile device advancements come with hefty price tags, with the Samsung Galaxy Fold coming in at around £1,515, with the Huawei Mate X a whopping £2,000. When you consider these prices in comparison to other consumer products of the same value (think a reasonable used first car or pretty high-end gaming/media PC), it begs the question of whether it is worth the price tag?
If there’s one thing we can be sure of, it’s that this new market for mobile phones is here to stay, at least for the next few years, with the global market for flexible OLED display technology already having reached $965 million in 2016, with projections of reaching $8.8 billion by 2022. So, if you intend on running multiple applications side-by-side on various screen combinations, taking pictures with one of your six built-in cameras, and enjoying somewhat of a throwback to conventional flip phones, then get saving.
What will be truly interesting is to see how this technology branches out and is made use of in other industries like automotive, medical, scientific, and entertainment.
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