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Here’s What Flexible Screens, Batteries Mean for Future Smartphones

By Joe Levi February 4, 2013, 10:47 am

Manufacturers have been teasing us with flexible displays for years. You'll be hard pressed to find a trade show anywhere in the world that doesn't have some booth with a thin sheet of plastic being twisted and flattened over and over. The Future, they say, will be made up of these displays, built-in to everything from bracelets to automotive displays.

What they're not telling you is that although the display may be flexible, and the futuristic mock-ups are intended to be twisted and rolled, that's not the real intent — nor is it their real advantage. Yes, it looks cool, high-tech, and futuristic. Sure, I'd love to have that mock-up on my wrist right now — and yes, you could make fun of me for doing so.


Screens aren't the only flexible things being shown off at the tech shows, we're also starting to see flexible batteries, too! That makes sense, even flexible displays need power, right?

Rounding out the collection, but not nearly as noteworthy as flexible batteries and displays are flexible circuit boards. I know what you're thinking! We can make a flexible smartphone or tablet that you can roll up and put in your pocket! Not quite... chips are still very un-flexible. Don't ask me how I know that, m'kay?

The Future isn't about rolling up your devices. It's not even about being able to flex your display or your device at all. Sorry to burst your bubble, but the foreseeable Future is still rigid — but it will make use of flexible technologies.

Flexible is less fragile

I don't know if you're aware, but glass, even Gorilla Glass, is fragile. Don't believe me? Just hit your smartphone with a hammer! (Pocketnow is not responsible for any damage caused by hitting anything with a hammer.) It breaks, right? If not the first time, eventually. Generally speaking, glass is very unforgiving. Plastic film? It's surprisingly resilient! Take a look at this video to see what I mean.

Making screens out of new, flexible technologies could mean the end to cracked screens.

Flexible is thinner

Every manufacturer on the planet is trying to shave millimeters off the thickness of their devices. Although we can make glass pretty thin these days, it's still significantly thicker than an equivalent flexible display. Sure, it's not a lot, but every little bit counts.

Flexible is, well, flexible

pebble flexible circuit board
Pebble’s got flexibility down to an art!

While I sit here waiting patiently for my Pebble smart watch, I'm reminded of everything they did to get the watch in as small a shell as possible — including a flexible circuit board. In this picture you'll see a standard, rigid PCB to hold the larger chips, and a flexible PCB that wraps around the top, bottom, and sides of the watch, taking advantage of all available space.

This is the real advantage of flexible components — not that they can be flexed and rolled by the end user, rather, they can be built thinner and faster, are more durable, and can make better use of 3-dimensional space inside our electronic devices. Flexible is the Future, that's for sure. But the flexing will be inside our devices.

Image Credits: cgworks, Pebble


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