Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 has just been launched in the market with a whopping $1799 price tag for the base model. It’s using the foldable screen technology and is a 5G capable phone. During the commercials, the device seems to have come straight out of a sci-fi movie. In this article, we’ll take a deeper dive on the hardware side of foldable screens as seen on this latest offering of Samsung.
There is the large screen which folds to form a compact phone plus an outer screen for little notifications.
Inception of Foldable Screen
The world’s first commercially available true foldable smartphone was the Royole Flexpai, released in 2018 so the devices such as the Samsung Galaxy Fold and Huawei Mate X are not the first to use this technology. Folding displays are based on the flexible display technology which we saw on mobile devices a few years back. But, it was not so obvious as it is now.
You could tell it was flexible by looking at the edge of the displays where it would’ve curved a bit. Some earlier examples of such tech are in products such as the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge. What’s interesting to note is that even Apple sources the displays from Samsung. So, devices such as the iPhone X is also using foldable screen technology to achieve the slight curve edge on the display.
History and development of Display Technology
Majority of screens we see around in devices are either using a Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) or a Light Emitting Diode (LED) displays. LCD displays were the ones overthrowing your clunky old CRTs. When comparing the newer two, you should note that all the LED monitors are LCD monitors but not all LCD monitors are LEDs. Yeah, it means that even the LEDs we know is actually just a special type of an LCD display.
Both the LCD and LED displays use an LCD panel to control where the light is displayed on the screen. This is controlled by the backlight panel. The displays are usually composed of two sheets of polarizing materials with a liquid crystal solution between the two, which is common in both the LCD and LED. The difference is, in LCDs the backlights used are fluorescent whereas the light emitting diodes are used as backlights for the LEDs.
OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode) is a display type made from organic materials where the OLED pixels produce their own light. Thus, it differs from both the LED and LCD displays even if it has a similar name. Due to the unusual property, OLED displays doesn’t require a backlight which provides room for physical flexibility. OLEDs produce both the light and color from a single diode when electricity is fed to it. Thus, every single pixel you see on the screen is a self-contained source of color and light. Now make a plastic based OLED and voila, you have a folding screen.
How a Foldable Screen Works ?
The foldable screen on the recent devices is using OLED tech. But before, liquid crystal display of the phone would be built around a glass base. Either the backing light or the screen itself would thus be required to be glass.
But OLED displays don’t need a backlight as discussed earlier. This allowed display manufacturers such as Samsung to build the LEDs on the screen itself. The OLED screen technology thus allows the OLEDs to be printed onto a thin layer of plastic which can act as the screen. This choice of not requiring a backlight and an ability to print the OLEDs onto a plastic surface allows the display to be bent into any shape that’s imaginable. Since the plastic can be bent, we’ve seen products such as the Samsung Galaxy Fold where the screen is being bent in half.
Where is the Tech going ?
We’ve seen the reviews of phones being destroyed by a speck of dust in products using the plastic screen such as the Galaxy Fold. So, even if the foldable screen doesn’t require it, the products made after the Galaxy Z Flip come with an ultra-thin glass. Samsung claimed to have made, “a leap from polymer screens to ultra-thin glass technology” during the release of the Galaxy Z Flip. This shows the innovation happening on their end.
Foldable screens are maturing but the major concerns of the durability is still under question. As with any technology that gets iterated upon, we’re sure that the foldable display niche will grow larger as the products using it grow in number. The cost of manufacturing will lower with time and competition as with any other electrical device. So, we do have an optimistic road ahead for devices with a foldable screen due to the limitless use case we can have for such devices.
Recent bendy Smartphones
There are quite a few bendy phones in the market but here are the 3 notable ones:
Screen: 7.2 in AMOLED 2x Display
Resolution: 2208 x 1768
Display area: 6.2 in
Battery: 44000 mAh
Price in USA: $1799 for 256 GB model
Screen: ‘Infinity Flex’ Dynamic AMOLED 2x glass
Resolution: 2640 x 1080
Display area: 6.7 in
Battery: 33000 mAh
Price in USA: $1000
Screen: vertical Flip-View pOLED display with 2.7 in Quickview
Resolution: 876 x 2142 pixels
Display area: 6.2-in
Battery: 2800 mAh
Price in USA: $999
Disadvantages of a foldable screen technology
- If you poke it you will damage it. Yes they are not going to be as sturdy as you gorilla glass smartphones of the old. A little layer of plastic has it all so keeping it safe will be on you minds all the time.
- There will also be a visible crease at the fold.
- The technology is fairly new so we can only wait and see how the hinges and the screen itself holds up against the environment and constant use.
Image: Mika Baumeister