We’ve heard about flexible displays for quite a while. Most of us have envisioned screens that roll up or fold away. Although that may be possible in the future, it’s probably not what we’ll see right away.
That’s not entirely true. Though the glass is curved, the “screen” is not, and the backs of the devices are decidedly flat.
Samsung’s YOUM design replaces the glass sheets used in traditional OLED screens with a flexible polymer. Once we have high-resolution, truly flexible displays, we can have curved screens — real curved screens. The technology to do so will employ flexible screens, but will we flex them, or will they just be fixed into an ergonomic curve?
Why are curved screens important?
Take a look at the human body. You’re not going to find many flat surfaces. Our faces are curved from our ears to our mouth, the palms of our hands are curved. If you put your phone in your back pocket you’re well aware of the curve there.
That’s just the screen, and we’ve already seen that a curved screen doesn’t really add that much ergonomics to our smartphones. What’s the problem? While we’ve heard about the potential of flexible screens, we’re still left with circuitry and batteries that simply don’t flex… or do they?
Flexible batteries and circuit boards are on their way
What good is a curved screen if the other components are flat? Recently we’ve seen what Google can do with flat circuit boards, by cutting and stacking them they were able to make a very spherical Nexus Q.
As cool as that might be, no one will argue that the Nexus Q is “thin”. In fact, it’s quite bulky. The Q doesn’t have any batteries inside since it’s designed to always plug into the wall. But what if circuit boards could be made flexible?
Flexible circuit boards are already available today! Your current phone or tablet probably already has one or two inside them — they’re just not used for the major components and larger microchips.
Batteries are next. They take up a large area in our devices, and they’re almost universally flat. But that’s about to change, thanks to some new methods that can make them flexible as well.
All the components are there: screen, battery, circuit board. I think we’re very close to a “curved device” revolution, and Samsung will be leading the charge (probably with a handful of patents to their name).
Although the devices themselves probably won’t “flex” or roll up like many have thought, they will be slimmer, they’ll better fit the human form, and they’ll be a breath of fresh air to the stale “slabs” that we all carry around with us today.