Flexible displays in 2014 – LG and Samsung are winners, but Nokia could shape the future

by: Jonathan FeistJune 7, 2014

Flexible Displays Samsung LG Nokia

There is a good chance you did not hear about the SID 2014 conference that ended today in San Diego. The Society for Information Display (SID) academic conference ran all this past week with one focus, display technology. Now that it is over, if we had to choose a theme for the conference, it would have been ‘flexible displays.’

The event handed out six awards, in three categories, with an overwhelming 5 of the 6 awards going to either curved devices or materials that support flexible displays. The big winners, as related directly to the smartphones we carry with us, started with Samsung taking a gold award for Display of the Year for their 5.68-inch FHD curved AMOLED display. The LG G Flex took gold in the Display Application of the Year category, rocking its 6-inch curved display.

LG G Flex vs Samsung Galaxy Round Quick Look Hands on AA (4 of 11)

Curved vs flexible displays

The above mentioned units offer a great curved experience, with some flexibility, but let us not confuse that with being bendable to any significant degree. Nokia may not have taken any awards at the SID conference, but they may just be the ones to watch for the future of flexible displays.

Nokia, along with Semiconductor Energy Laboratory (SEL) Co Ltd and Advanced Film Device (AFD) Inc announced a 5.9-inch OLED panel with the ability to fold to an amazing 2mm radius. Now, that’s what I call a flexible display. In their application, the display was made to fold in half, like a book, and into a “three-fold” display, with two folds.

Nokia Display Book fold

The display provides a 720p resolution, or 249ppi, which may not be anyone’s definition of a high-end display, but is some of the best resolution we’ve seen for a display with this level of flexibility. That 2mm radius means that the fold is not quite touching, and certainly cannot take a pressed down crease, but should last you more than 100,000 bends, says SEL.

Nokia Display Tri fold

Now for the geeky stuff, just skip this paragraph if you want. The display is made by forming a release layer, sealing layer and color filter layer on one piece of glass, then a release layer, sealing layer, TFT layer and an OLED layer on another piece of glass. Attach those two together, peel off the glass and replace with a sealing and flexible substrate. Nice and simple.

No word on what actual plans Nokia has for these amazingly flexible displays, but it may just be that the first truly foldable-display-equipped mobile devices come out of the Microsoft camp.

Where do you think the future of flexible mobile devices is headed?

  • Xavier_NYC

    How would you hold the phone if the screen curves around the sides too?

    • Harkaboy

      You don’t hold it. It levitates. (*_*)

      • Hey, you spoiled my next post: “Nokia develops levitating phone.” I guess I won’t right it after all.

        Seriously though, it is so early on this one, they’ll probably ‘dumb’ it down so much, to pass FCC, that the flexible aspect will be all but lost. Or they’ll just sell it with the same big ugly black framework with screws poking out that we see in the pictures.

        • Harkaboy

          Haha! My bad. d:

          Yeah, good point.

  • wat

    MS/Nokia would never be the first to release this, they’ve been playing it safe for the last few years and will continue to do so

    • VH

      who said anything about ms? Nokia advance tech is still part of nokia only the phones were sold to msft

  • anon

    you can bend the display but can you bend other component, that the most important

    • K2

      Good point.

  • jon moin

    nobody wants a stupid curved display

    • MasterMuffin

      Me wants

    • Sondrek17

      I would like to have a display that bends. It could be curved around my wrist and be used like a smartwatch. It could also be used as smart glasses. Similar to Sony vr. I can understand why some regard it as a pointless feature. But for me the flexible display can make some more innovative phones. Like g flex or galaxy round.

  • mm_meme

    I think you are drunk or have memory lost while typing this article….. Samsung & LG both have this sh*t announced long ago. That picture don’t look like 2mm radius bend. I guess you American have problem converting inches to mm. That radius (I can bet my house on it) looks more like 20mm or very close to 1inch (for you American reader). 20mm radius is nothing…to be honest with you. BTW, 20mm = 40mm diameter = 40mm thickness. Who freaking use a 40mm thick device this day?

    • likemystory

      Actually if you really think about it 40mm is thinner than some laptop PC’s! With windows 8.1 who actually needs a keyboard these days, and then when you’re wanting to consume media you open it out fully to twice it’s size.
      So yes I’d love to see a 40mm thick windows 8.1 device!

    • K.

      The screen can be folded to a radius of 2mm. It’s difficult to guess the radius from the picture but it looks less than 10mm.

    • Jason

      Maybe they just don’t have a picture of the tightest fold.

    • anti-mm

      Wow, hate America much?!? Isn’t this author a Canadian too? Matters not, the pictures are crap, what makes you think they tell the whole story? And what manufacturer ever publishes boring numbers – car manufacturers always say 5L/100km when real world driving is more like 8-9L/100km, of course Nokia says 2mm and demonstrates bigger, they obviously got it to 2mm once without it breaking, so they are not lying, but it would totally suck to have it snap in a product announcement… whatever, it is early development, and the rest of the phone components will mean a 9mm device anyway.

    • I am sorry you feel this way mm_meme. I will admit that I did not go to the SID 2014 conference myself and am reliant on the information supplied to me. Yes, Samsung, LG and others have shown off flexible displays, which likely is why they were able to produce the phones that won the awards mentioned.

      And yes, I am Canadian, only recently moved to the U.S., I know all too well the metric system and conversions to Imperial. I digress, rest assured that if Nokia or any of the other flexible display manufacturer actually go to market with a truly flexible unit, we’ll be here to report on it. Until then, we can only hope that you can be as excited about each new technological advancement, or variation thereof, as we are.

  • Roberto Tomás

    Everybody is googley-eyed over flexible displays being flexible … but they also have the best fidelity and the cheapest production method. Can’t wait to see full-blown factories.. no matter who is making it for sale here

  • kleinerSK

    As long as we don’t have flexible parts like battery it doesn’t matter how small the radius can be. But it could at least protect against display breaks.

    • jaketyler27

      not true, they could design a tablet that is almost like a cylinder tube (which holds the battery memory etc) and the flexible display can be pulled and rolled out from the tube like a scroll

      • kleinerSK

        Then bye bye flat design. And if you roll out the display, how comfortable would it be to hold it tightly to see the contents proportional? And how would you type when grabbing one handed the cylinder and trying to type with the other hand?

  • Andrew White

    Just purchased samsung’s 65″ ultra high def tv with a ‘curved’ display and yum!
    Really don’t see the point when it relates to smartphones or tablets, unless there is a significant inprovement in dispersing reflected sunlight.

  • Will S.

    Just why?

  • bodyman

    do samsung prepare a flexible display for its next galaxy s6 or Apple for iphone 6 and new ipad air ? may be but i don’t think