A thin mobile phone that you can roll up like a piece of paper? That’s not science fiction. It’s soon to become science fact and innovation reality, if Samsung has its way.
The phone generating the most buzz right now is the Samsung Galaxy S10, which launches in New York on February 20th. The Ten, Samsung Galaxy line’s 10th anniversary device, continues the smartphone trend of pushing the screen right to the edge of the device, all but eliminating bezels – the black border around screens – which has progressively grown smaller. When you hear tech reviewers talk about “screen-to-body ratio,” this is what they mean.
So if you’ve pushed the screen to edges, where else can you go? Has smartphone innovation reached its limits? Is innovation, from now, only going to be incremental? Samsung says no. Innovation, it is betting, can literally, take phones over the edge.
“We are still living in a world where the size of the smartphone display can only be as large as the device itself,” muses Hark-sang Kim, Samsung’s Senior Vice President in charge of Research and Development.
“At Samsung, we began to ask ourselves how we can overcome this limitation and expand the possibilities of what users can accomplish on the go.”
If phone manufacturers make them bigger, they become less easy to carry. We already know that bigger phones are a pain for women who carry them in the pockets of their jeans.
“Smartphone displays can’t get any larger without compromising portability – this was the orthodoxy for a long time”, Hark reasons, so “resolving the contradiction between screen size and portability and developing a new form factor became the central focus of our innovation efforts”.
We got a glimpse of the future last year with Samsung’s Infinity Flex Display, their foldable smartphone prototype. It first debuted in 2011, but took seven years to develop. The foldable screen demanded a total re-engineering. Think about it. If we were strong enough to try to fold our phones, we’d break them. The foldable phone needed brand new materials that can function like a normal screen, but didn’t have the rigidity and brittleness of one.
They had to rethink the placements of the battery, cooling system, and camera. They had to develop an operating system to ensure apps work between folded and expanded displays. As a piece of smartphone innovation, it was difficult to accomplish. But accomplish it they have, and they expect it to become the norm.
“We expect to see a sea change in the smartphone form factor in the coming years”, Hark says.
“From rollable and stretchable devices to the devices that can fold in multiple ways are no longer beyond the realms of reality.
Samsung may also be striking a blow for jeans pockets equality