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LG and Samsung gear up for the next bout of flexible display technology

LG and Samsung are both expected to unveil new curved smartphones later this year, but the two companies are taking different approaches with their future designs.
March 31, 2014
LG G Flex vs Samsung Galaxy Round Quick Look Hands on AA (3 of 11)

Samsung and LG are on the cutting edge of what could become a popular future trend – curved and flexible display smartphones. The two companies have already released their first generation curved displays, the LG G Flex and the Samsung Galaxy Round. We conducted our own comparison between the two curved handsets at the end of last year. But where is the future of flexible displays heading?

According to industry insiders, who recently spoke with ETNews, LG Display will be focusing on reducing the size of its flexible displays and improving various display aspects, such as resolution, this year. On the other hand, Samsung Display is said to be developing a variety of forms of flexible AMOLED, with the aim of making the design the game changer.

LG G Flex vs Samsung Galaxy Round Quick Look Hands on AA (6 of 11)

Looking at LG specifically, the company’s flexible display technology is currently suffering from poorer specifications that Samsung’s equivalent. Desipite the larger display size, the LG G Flex could only muster a 720p resolution and a pixel density of 245 ppi. Samsung’s Galaxy Round, on the other hand, managed a 1080p resolution, resulting in a pixel density of 386 ppi.

LG and Samsung are expected to unveil new curved smartphone designs later this year.

This year, LG is planning to reduce the size of its flexible display down to 5.5 inches, whilst upping the resolution to FullHD (1080p). LG is also reportedly working to improve heating issues with its OLED design.

“Our goal is to enhance product performance a notch or higher across the board.” LG insider

An interesting point to note is that Samsung’s AMOLED display found in the Galaxy Round isn’t actually “flexible” in the same sense as LG’s, which might explain why Samsung’s technology retains familiar specifications. As a result, Samsung’s future plans are quite different. Samsung is said to be experimenting with various curved designs, in both the horizontal and vertical planes, as well as designs involving curved edges.

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Whilst LG focuses on improving its existing flexible display technology, Samsung is testing out a wider range of designs and uses.

According to industry insiders, Samsung Display has decided to develop a product incorporating various types of curvature, which should be making its way into a future smartphone. Samsung believes that it will be the design that will determine the success or failure of its flexible AMOLED technology.

Both LG and Samsung are expected to unveil new curved smartphone designs later this year.

But hold on, we’re not close to this being a widespread technology, not yet at least. According to research firm IHS, LG Display and Samsung Display’s flexible AMOLED production capacity reached 20,000 sheets per month last year, from various production lines and display sizes. There’s no chance that current production yields could keep-up if the technology was to be used in a flagship smartphone. Low yields, high prices, and other component development costs are still limiting the production of units and availability for use in products.

“For the time being, flexible displays will not be found on smartphones very often.” Kang Min-soo, IHS Researcher

The other half of the issue is whether or not consumers really care about curved displays. Despite being able to output around 240,000 sheets per year, Samsung and LG have only managed combined sales of less than 100,000 curved displays so far. This figure includes a range of technologies, including TVs. Perhaps new smartphones or wearables could help boost these sales figures, but for the time being flexible and curved displays will probably remain a niche.

Do you think that curved and flexible designs are the future for smartphones or wearables, or have you been unimpressed with this first generation of products?