By Stephen Schenck | July 9, 2013 5:04 PM
Smartphones may keep getting faster and faster, and they certainly seem to get bigger and bigger, but in a way progress has been slowing down. After all, we don’t seem to see so many experimental designs like multi-screened phones, or even phones with hardware keyboards anymore – everyone’s focused on simple slate designs. Are we going to be stuck going down that path forever? A new video Samsung’s been showing at this year’s MobileBeat conference gives us hope, showing at least one potentially innovative phone design.
There are actually a bunch of new ideas going on here all at once. Samsung’s showing off a foldable triptych look for a handset, a new photonic crystal display panel, and a smart sensor for medical uses. The latter’s a little outside our field of specialty, but the others are pretty neat-looking.
Foldable designs are nothing new, and the key to doing them right is always going to be a combination of hardware robustness (moving parts are a hornet’s nest of potential problems) and software that makes the multi-screen interface they create easy and seamless to use. We don’t get a very long look here, and the UI may be more for visual impact than a reflection of a real, workable system, but we like what we see.
That photonic crystal display is something unlike what we’re used to. It appears that the display would physically deform nanostructures in order to modify how they reflect light. Different sizes associate with different wavelengths, and correspondingly: colors. Unlike an LCD or OLED display, this wouldn’t emit any light of its own (a big potential problem) but would reflect ambient light. In that sense, it shares aspects of its functionality with today’s electronic ink displays.
All of this is probably a long way off – we’ve still got to get those flexible phones, right? – but it’s good to know that Samsung has its sights on the future, all the same.