Technology has been changing the game in mobile devices, and whether we like it or not, it advances rapidly. I can still recall how amazed I was the first time I encountered a phone with a touch screen display. From then on, every year we have seen improvements in smartphone’s display, from scratch-resistant to shatter-resistant screens. Said feature has become a must-watch out improvement for every newly released unit, aside from the processor and the camera. The latest of which is the foldable smartphone technology as quoted by many. Let us find out how does it work.
What is Behind The Foldable Smartphone Technology?
First of all, I want to make clear that foldable is equal to flexible and not being able to flip as in flip-type phone. When we say foldable phone, we are literally referring to a phone that is possible to be folded and be unfolded. But did you know that this is not the first time that this technology was used in mobile phone? Maybe we are not aware, but we already had encountered this technology. Probably you owned one of the devices using the said breakthrough .
Have you noticed the edge screen popularized by Samsung and curved TV screens by LG and Samsung? The technology behind these electronics gadgets and appliances is also the same technology that foldable phone is being used. However, it is not Samsung or LG who has conceived the idea and invented this technology. Samsung just like other smartphone makers have just developed the technology for application in mobile devices or appliances.
How Does it Work?
The flexible display is what makes a foldable phone possible. It was conceptualized 44 years ago. The usual LED, OLED, or AMOLED displays uses layers of glass as components of the screen. On the other hand, Samsung flexible display uses plastic film instead of the usual glass material. This is because glass is brittle, hard and not bendable unlike plastic or polymer. The display functions the same manner as the OLED and AMOLED except that the display can be folded or flexed.
There are other flexible displays being developed but the principle is the same, instead of using glass, a lighter material such as polymer is used instead.
Application in Smartphones
News about the application of this technology in smartphone has been spread since 2012 but only now we are seeing the reality of this foldable display. We may not be aware of it but, Samsung which is the biggest manufacturer of OLED display, has already gradually introduced the flexible display technology in their flagship phones.
This was seen first in the Galaxy S6 Edge, and from then on, all succeeding Samsung flagship phones feature this technology. We were awed about the bezel-less edge screen of these phones when they were introduced. In other words, Samsung has been conditioning its consumers about the foldable display since 2015 when S6 Edge was introduced.
It is not so surprising that just recently this tech giant has unveiled the first foldable smartphone, named as the Galaxy Fold and will be available in the market starting this April. It is earlier than the previous forecast but I think this is a strategic launch.
What Would We Expect?
Foldable phones promise additional or bigger computing screens for the users. Unlike the bigger tablets, the screen is transformable from a phone into a tablet and vice versa. There would be more rooms for your apps to work on and yet the device would still be portable. How cool is that?
2 or 3 screens working together requires considerable amount of power so we are expecting bigger battery capacity of foldable phones as seen in the Galaxy Fold, although in a phone mode, the bigger screen uses less power. Anyway, since the device now is bigger when unfolded, there is plenty of space for mounting a bigger battery or rather 2 batteries working together as in the Galaxy Fold.
On the other hand, with upgrade in processors, as with the latest smartphone models, less energy consumption is possible even for the foldable phone. In that case, a very big battery capacity may not be needed.
Switching from screen to screen requires faster OS and faster apps continuity so developers may need to upgrade their apps to cope up with the abrupt switching from a bigger screen to a smaller one and vice versa.
We are not expecting a very heavy device even if we are seeing a wider and bigger screen. As mentioned above, the glass use in the standard smartphone display was changed to plastic sheet which is thinner and lighter. We can still expect a portable 2-in-1 device in our single hand.
With the integration of 2(smartphone and tablet modes) or 3 devices(smartphone, tablet, and laptop modes), you can now do multiple tasks wherever you go. Some tasks can only be done in laptop or a tablet but you would not want to carry these devices with you anywhere. With this invention, it is like carrying 2 or 3 devices portable enough to put in your pocket or hold in your hand. Imagine the possibilities and convenience that this foldable phone can bring to our daily lives in the near future.
With the absence of shatter-prone and thick glass, we are expecting a slimmer and lighter device which should make foldable phones more portable even if the screen is made bigger. We are also expecting less breakage of screen since it is now made of special plastic.
Most devices with mechanical mechanism usually encounter wear and tear in the long run. Foldable phones will not be different. The portion where the displays meet or flex or fold will be a subject of deterioration if the design is not properly considered. On the other hand, Galaxy Fold promises a 100 thousand times folds and unfolds without any damage. Anyway, if it can last for 2 or 3 years, I think it is forgivable since after that period you would want a brand new device with the latest features.
Current OLED or AMOLED display provides clear and vivid viewing experience. I do not know about this polymer-made screen if they can deliver the same performance as current smartphone’s glass display. The foldable display may not be as appealing as current glass screens. On the other hand, as the competition becomes strict, improvement would be on the way.
Not all people are doing multiple computing tasks in their daily lives. Having a 2-in-1 or 3-in-1 device with you anywhere may not be applicable at all. Not to mention how much this device would cost. Are you willing to spend a whopping $1980 for a foldable device such as the Galaxy Fold if you are just using your phone to call, text, or visit your social media accounts? I think not.
Flexible display has come a very long way. It took many years before this breakthrough be materialized or rather commercialized which paved the way to foldable smartphone technology. Just very recently, Samsung has released the first foldable phone for commercial use, the Galaxy Fold. It is also the first phone compatible with 5G network.
As of now, we may not see the advantage of owning a $2000 foldable phone but in the very near future, I am sure we would appreciate the convenience this technology can bring to our daily lives. We just need to wait a little longer until the competition naturally bring the price down with more improved features.
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