technology

LG researching extendable flexible 3D screens

LG

LG has long experimented with flexible displays, with years of research starting to bear fruit in the company’s super-light, super-bendy (and super-expensive) OLED TV displays. It now looks as though the company may be ready to begin trickling that tech down into some interesting portable devices.

A 2016 patent, uncovered by LetsGoDigital describes a device with a flexible, extendable display. Filed with the World Intellectual Property Organisation and published last week, it shows a device that can be pulled at the sides, extending the screen depending on the application.

This appears to leave an exposed edge to the extended part of the screen, with a metal frame circling the display when back in its ‘neutral’ position.

The patent shows a number of different applications for the device, including an extended keyboard, and more screen real estate for when dealing with emails, versus the at-a-glance portability of its smaller portrait position.

The device, as described in the patent, would include many of the features you’d expect to find in your average smartphone too, from a wireless module to a camera and mic, right down to a removable battery.

However, as ever, a patent is now sure-fire sign of a product in the works, but merely a company protecting its ideas from the competition.

But, as the smartphone market has matured, and flexible screen technologies improved, the potential for a real device like this has grown. It’s increasingly difficult for phone buyers to get excited by yet another metal-and-glass slate phone. An idea like this brought to fruition could reap rewards for LG, whose smartphone business – while turning out solid devices – has never quite reached the heights it hoped for.

LG Display is of course just one of the other OLED display makers out there vying for Apple’s business. And Apple is in need of a second display supplier for the iPhone X so it doesn’t have to rely solely on Samsung.

Samsung’s OLED screens are the best in the smartphone industry, which is why Apple is using them. As for LG not having decided on whether it’ll supply OLED screens to Apple, that’s not necessarily a decision for LG Display to make. Sure, LG could refuse Apple, but who does that? Samsung would have to sell more than 20 million Galaxy Note 8 units next year to make as much money as selling OLED displays for the iPhone. That’s how massive Apple’s OLED business is already.

It’s more likely that Apple has not decided whether to use LG’s screens. The two companies, however, are reportedly working on a secret iPhone project for the future, likely a foldable phone that Apple wants to keep hidden from Samsung.

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