The new Samsung Galaxy Round and the LG G Flex smartphones have both recently had their release dates announced, but it is not the phone specification that the world is talking about – it is their screens.
Both phones feature a curved touchscreen interface: the Galaxy Round curves down its vertical axis and the G Flex across its horizontal axis. The phones themselves are not flexible, remaining fixed in their curve, yet this gives potential for new gesture and motion technology to be developed to utilise all aspects of the new shape.
So how has the touchscreen been able to bend into the curved casing to such an extent? Both phones feature an OLED (organic light-emitting diode) screen, which is a technology that is being constantly developed in new and exciting ways. Its most recent appearance before the announcement of the smartphones was in LG Display’s 55” OLED TV, which was on show at the Society for Information Display’s (SID) Display Week in 2013, although it can also be seen in wallpaper and even clothing.
OLED technology can be manufactured to be inherently flexible, by replacing the normal glass substrate with a flexible plastic one. There are disadvantages to this, as it can induce stress in the materials, and furthermore flexible encapsulation methods do not protect the OLED materials from air and moisture as effectively as glass. However, constant research and development is working to address these issues and find effective solutions.
It is clear that there are also a great many advantages to flexible OLED technology. They are more lightweight and less easily broken through day-to-day use than glass substrate displays, reducing the risk of damage at a time when more and more people have access to these devices. Flexible OLEDs also allow displays to be moulded to a huge variety of applications, such as in bespoke kiosk units. With touch sensors embedded in the screen as seen in the new smartphones, the potential for the future development of touchscreens is vast.