LG Jumps Out of the Box With Curvy Phone Displays

Following its launch earlier this year of a 55-inch OLED TV display, LG on Monday announced that it is working on bringing similar technology to mobile devices.

The company’s first handsets to feature the new OLED technology will arrive on the market next year, it said, following rival Samsung, which has announced that it will bring out a special, curved-screen edition of the Galaxy Note 3 later this month.

“The flexible display market is expected to grow quickly as this technology is expected to expand further into diverse applications including automotive displays, tablets and wearable devices,” said Sang Deog Yeo, executive vice president and chief technology officer for LG Display. “Our goal is to take an early lead in the flexible display market by introducing new products with enhanced performance and differentiated designs next year.”

LG Display did not respond to our request for further details.

Flexible – in Theory

LG’s OLED panel is built on a plastic substrate instead of glass, and a film-type encapsulation that is attached to the back and front allows the panel to be bendable and unbreakable. The 6-inch display is designed to curve from the top to the bottom.

That might make for interesting designs, but it isn’t really clear who is in the market for a curved device.

“This is not something that customers have been asking for,” telecommunications analyst Jeff Kagan told the E-Commerce Times. “We see so many innovative ideas enter the marketplace every year. Some are very good. Others sound cool but end up being a big waste of time.

“It’s like the innovative self-parking design Lexus introduced a few years ago, Kagan added. “Pretty cool, but it takes too long and most don’t have the patience.”

‘The Standard Slab’

On the other hand, the new technology could also enable new designs not possible with today’s flat display technology.

“A flexible screen means you can do more interesting things with design, such as offering more usable screen real estate in more interesting ways,” said mobile device analyst Stephen Blum of Tellus Ventures Associates. “Putting text and images along the edge of the device is one example.

“Getting away from the standard slab form factor is another,” Blum told the E-Commerce Times. “Flexible screens can be used to wrap phones around wrists, for example. Flexible screens allow smartphone design to go from two physical dimensions to three, and that’s going to unlock some genuine imagination and innovation.”

Indeed, “curved displays will certainly help with new form factors and bring screens to a lot more places, not only cellphones,” agreed Roger Enter, principal analyst at Recon Analytics. “Imagine a column being a screen. For mobile devices, you are able to mold the much closer to body contours.

“The device screen can move so it will be much less likely to break,” Enter told the E-Commerce Times. “All of these are great differentiators for device manufacturers.”

‘The Basic Trade-Offs’

OLED may have a greater competitive advantage at the high end of the market, Blum suggested.

At the same time, “OLED is [not] that big of a deal,” he added. “The basic OLED/LCD trade-offs, such as power consumption vs. lifetime vs. resolution, aren’t changing.”

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