Nokia and Samsung have been engaging in a war of sorts over the latest in mobile technology: bendable displays. These cleverly designed mobiles are literally flexible, allowing the screen to be distorted at will.
Both mobile giants have recently released information about their flexible displays, with Nokia showing their Nokia Kinetic Device at Nokia World in London, and Samsung mentioning their plans for bendable displays in a conference call to investors.
The Kinetic Device answers the question “What can you actually do with a flexible display?” The idea is that you can use the bending of the screen as an input method. If you flex the right hand side, you move right. Flex the left hand side, you move left. If you bend both hands back, you zoom in; both hands forward and you zoom out.
Using physical twists and flexes as an input method is novel, but not necessarily ideal — for example, you need to use both hands to operate it, whereas with most touch screens you only need one. Nokia’s flexible display is said to be aiming for a consumer release sometime in 2013, probably as a mobile phone.
Samsung’s flexible displays, as shown off at CES in January, have been slightly less original. The displays bend quite impressively, but don’t use the motion to control anything. Samsung has one-upped Nokia in one way though, and that’s on the date. Samsung have said that they plan to introduce the flexible display “sometime in 2012, hopefully the earlier part than later.”
Overall though, these displays are more a proof of concept than a real necessity, but by producing these bendable displays as mobile devices the technology will mature to the point where it can be integrated into something slightly more useful.
Bendable displays have the potential to be easier to store and transport and be less prone to breaking. Later on, these technologies could be used in even more unique ways, like fully electronic newspapers that are as flexible as the real deal or electronic skin. It sounds hard to believe, but these technologies aren’t too far off.
While these displays might not be useful in their own right, they’re still an important stepping stone on the road to future uses, and I for one can’t wait to give them a go. Bring on 2012 and 2013!