When it comes to smartphone displays, there has not been much of a major design shift for a long time now. Typically, smartphone or other electronic displays have basically meant glass or plastic in a flat form. This design impasse has all led to perfect storm conditions for new design forms and factors to emerge. One new emerging technology pertains to flexible and bendable displays that have the potential to transform consumer electronics, unlike any other technology across the past many decades. Flexible displays go beyond the curved displays that are now emerging in the market. Curved displays are not bendable, unlike pure bendable and flexible displays. The distinct emergence of flexible displays offers many, new compelling technological and market monetization models.
The most widely used display technology today is LCD that is made with glass and consequently is inflexible and has a flat form. When it comes to flexible and durable displays, the principal technology underlying it will be OLED. OLEDs are natural in the preference of substrates and are amenable to conform to all display forms, owing to the inherent and inbuilt flexibility across all display layers, including encapsulants.
However, what does bendable, flexible and durable display mean for the world?
Benefits of Bendable, Flexible and Durable Displays
For consumer electronics, the biggest advantage from such durable displays is that the gadget screen can absorb any impact better than the current glass surfaces available in smartphones right now. Given the bendable and flexible form factor, such displays bode well for wearables and smartwatches that can fit better to the contours of human wrists. It also bodes well for smartphones that are hybrid in nature, acting as smartphones as well as wearables. The use cases will vary from consumer electronics to healthcare to defence.
In addition to the durability, the fact that such bendable displays are light translates to smartphones that are much lighter than those available currently in the market. Devices currently available in the market are heavy to tug along, or carry in person, whether it be a smartphone or a wearable, due to the heavy glass screen. Once flexible and bendable displays become available commercially, they would translate into immense benefits for consumers.
The third advantage that flexible displays bring forth is their ruggedness and the fact that they are shatter-proof and water-proof. Essentially, the devices of today, that are marked by their fragility, and tend to many unpleasant accidents involving breaking upon impact, or losing functionalities when coming in contact with extreme weather conditions, or water, would be history.
Key Technology Challenges
The key challenge with bendable and flexible displays is the design challenge pertaining to making inner device components also bendable and flexible. One key inner component is the battery. The Battery is not currently amenable to bending and flexing, with high likelihood of exploding on impact.
The performance of OLED technology, and its insulation from extreme weather is yet to be seen in large form factor devices.
Beyond the design challenge for internal components, other challenges that stem from plastic displays pertain to the potential lack of HD experience in flexible displays that consumers currently experience on their smartphones. This is owing to the restricted color palettes in flexible displays.
In addition, over a period of time, the natural wear and tear will start taking effect on the flexible and bendable displays. The challenge for manufacturers is to build design prowess that does away with such unfortunate.