How does a foldable smartphone display work??
Smartphone displays are usually made up of glass, which is mostly inflexible. However, foldable displays are now possible for the Flexible Display technology. Organic Light Emitting Diode or OLED displays are made up of organic materials that emit light when electricity is passed through them. This technology is built around OLED screens as they don’t require backlights to function. So, these displays can be made so thin that they become flexible, forming the base for flexible screens.
Tech giants like Apple and Samsung have been using this technology for a long time, but earlier the technology was only used to give the devices curved edges. Flexible displays can be found in old smartphones like — iPhone X and the Samsung Galaxy Edge series. This technology has now evolved a lot and has grown from just allowing screens to have curved edges into making screens that can be actually folded.
What materials are used to make foldable displays?
All first-generation foldable screens were made of plastic polymers as glass is very rigid and it cracks when it is bent. Manufacturers initially used polymers as it is lightweight and flexible, but this material was rejected as it was more vulnerable to scratches and marks, compared to displays made of glass.
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Samsung released the Galaxy Z Flip in 2020 and called it “a leap from polymer screens to ultra-thin glass technology”. Although the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip has a soft, scratchable plastic layer on top, the main component of the display is glass.
Foldable smartphone displays: Advantages
Portability of large displays: Smartphone users can now use their devices to perform tasks that were earlier possible only with computers. It is almost impossible to differentiate what a smartphone is supposed to be used for and what it’s not. This trend is the inspiration behind the introduction of tablets as well as phones with larger screen sizes. The foldable display technology has fuelled this into an even tougher debate. Previously, users had to go for a big device if they wanted a larger display. But with the foldable screen technology, users can now get larger screens without sacrificing the portability of their devices.
Ease of multitasking:Foldable smartphones can take multitasking to a new level as these devices allow users to run three screens simultaneously. The large screen size of these devices also ensures that users don’t need to squint their eyes to see on-screen information. This is something that most users probably need to do while multitasking on a traditional smartphone. It can be a game-changer for consumers who use their smartphones for work as they will be able to run three apps at a go on a tablet-sized screen. For instance, you can attend a live meeting on one app while taking notes on another app at the same time.
Better image quality:Foldable smartphone displays are built around OLED screens which makes their image quality better than most smartphones that are available today. Flexible OLED displays offer higher brightness, better contrast, faster refresh rates and lower power consumption, compared to a device that features an LCD screen of the same size.
Screen Protection: Most foldable phones that are available on the market fold inwards which keeps the screen covered when folded. The casing bears the brunt of any accidental impacts, while the screen stays protected.
Foldable smartphone displays: Disadvantages
Affordability: There are traditional smartphones or tablets that are available with similar features and are less expensive compared to foldable devices. The Samsung Galaxy Fold was launched at a price of around Rs 1,50,000, whereas traditional smartphones with similar specifications are available at prices lower than half of that price.
Regular wear-and-tear: The foldable displays tend to wear away with frequent folding and unfolding of these devices. Moreover, the number of folds a foldable smartphone can withstand before giving in is also not standardised among the major players of the industry. CNET conducted a test to check the number of folds devices can take and found out that the Samsung Galaxy Fold lasted 120,000 rounds of folding before giving up, while the Motorola Razr was able to withstand only 27,000 folds.
Heavier devices: Smartphone users tend to opt for devices that are more portable. When portability is concerned, the thickness and weight of devices should also be considered. Foldable smartphone screens fold over themselves making the device heavier to carry around.
What does the future of foldable smartphone displays look like?
Foldable smartphone displays might be exciting and one of the biggest innovations in smartphone manufacturing, but there are still some doubts about this display technology becoming mainstream. Critics have pointed out its high prices and the tendency to fail after repeated folding as the primary drawbacks.
Flexible smartphones offer users the ability to get a screen twice as large as the phone, eliminating the need of buying two separate devices — a phone and a tablet.
As we have seen earlier, history has repeatedly proven that technology gets better and cheaper with time. As the technology behind foldable smartphone displays gets better, users can expect the cost of these devices to come down.