Qualcomm tells of foldable phone struggles

Flexible displays have been on demo stands at nearly every tech-related conference. But why haven’t we seen them in real products that can change their shape? According to one Qualcomm executive, it’s because the diodes likely can’t last more than the length of a trade show.

Speaking with TechRadar, product manager of display technology Salman Saeed that display transistors have yet to withstand an acceptable level of bending activity. Given the expected lifetime of a smartphone, passing this threshold will be an achievement indeed.

“[Phone manufacturers] haven’t really cracked the material science right now to produce electrodes that can repeatedly withstand bending and folding,” Saeed said.

That’s left stop-gap products like the ZTE Axon M — with its two rigid displays that can come together and apart again on a hinge — filling the void, but the executive gave a withering take on the execution of the device with a minor consolation toward its concept.

“[The Axon M] looks a little ugly… the use cases are pretty bad. The second display does practically nothing, but I think it’s compelling.”

If users can’t expand and contract their displays at will just yet, there might as well be more of them that can fold in and out as needed, Saeed thinks.

“If you look at what Samsung has done with the Snapdragon 835 and DeX, our chipset can power two, three, four displays at the same time,” he said, “so yeah, we’re underutilized right now. We have the GPU horsepower, we have everything needed to fully power all of those extra pixels.”

Samsung has long been in the running to create a phone with a foldable display — what we’ve been calling the Galaxy X. From what Salman Saeed can tell, it’ll be a while yet before something like that will come from any of the Tier One manufacturers. But will more screens lead to satisfactory user experience in lieu of stretchable screens? Signs from DeX owners have pointed to “no,” but we shall see.

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Jules Wang
Jules Wang is News Editor for Pocketnow and one of the hosts of the Pocketnow Weekly Podcast. He came onto the team in 2014 as an intern editing and producing videos and the podcast while he was studying journalism at Emerson College. He graduated the year after and entered into his current position at Pocketnow, full-time.