By Joe Levi | October 17, 2013 1:01 PM
Remember way back when we first started hearing about flexible displays? We saw all kinds of cool displays at trade shows demonstrating how screens could curve and bend and flex. We were all wowed! Then a few of us started reeling the conversation back towards reality. Batteries, we said, were still fairly large and bulky, and didn’t bend at all. Chips and circuit boards are also pretty rigid. Then that all changed when we started seeing demos for, you guessed it, flexible batteries. This renewed the public’s desire to have a flexible, perhaps even a “roll-up” smartphone or tablet. Though some specialty circuit boards can be flexed, they’re not in the same class as traditional, rigid circuit boards. Sure, the concept or a 100% flexible device sounds cool, but it’s still not practical. We told you flexible screens and batteries didn’t mean “flexible phones” — at least not yet.
We now have two devices that serve as a proof of concept: the LG G Flex tablet, Samsung Galaxy Round. Both devices feature a prominently curved screen. Haven’t we already seen curved screens on devices before. The Samsung’s Nexus S and Galaxy Nexus both had curved screens.
Or did they?
As someone who owns both the Nexus S and the Galaxy Nexus, I can attest that the screens are, in point of fact, curved, albeit slightly. But that depends on what your definition of “screen” is. If you separate what most would call the “screen” into it’s components, a different story comes to light: neither the Nexus S nor Galaxy Nexus had a curved screen.
Depending on who you ask, a “screen” is made up of the component that displays the pixels, the component that digitizes your interactions with the device, the component that lights the whole thing up, and the protective layer on the front. Often all or many of these individual components are laminated together, making a “screen assembly”. In the case of the Nexus S and Galaxy Nexus, the topmost layer (the glass) was curved. The underlying components, however, were not. So, from a purist standpoint, neither phone had a curved “screen”, just curved glass.
Fast-forward to today and we’ve got two devices that finally show us a truly curved screen. We don’t yet have enough hands-on experience to determine if these are better than their flat counterparts, but that will certainly come with time. What can can say is that, even though the screens are flexible, the devices are still rigid.
We’ve had “rigid” phones for decades now, we can wait for another few (or several) years before we get flexible devices. Flexible screens, even when locked in shape, should be significantly more forgiving to drops and scenarios that would have broken a rigid glass screen.
Unfortunately we may have to put up with more scratched screens than we did with devices using Gorilla Glass, but we should have less catastrophic breaks. In theory.
What do you think? Are curved devices the next big thing in mobile technology? Why or why not? Do you think we’ll see less broken screens, but more scratches? Does being curved make you more or less likely to buy a device than one with a traditional flat display?
Head down to the comments and let us know your thoughts!