Samsung unveils crease-less foldable AMOLED display

May 13, 2011
Tech

Wanna see something that’s poised to change the tablet size debate? Check out Samsung’s foldable AMOLED display technology — that’s right: a smartphone or tablet screen that can be folded.

Gizmodo has the story about the new technology Samsung (005930.KS) has been working on since 2008, when it showed off a smartphone with a foldable display. The one major drawback of that version: it creased the screen when folded, leaving a permanent imperfection in the display.

Samsung went back to the drawing board and came up with a new kind of screen that doesn’t crease when folded in half, using a combination of rubber and silicone and adding a second display. Here’s Gizmodo’s rundown of how it works:

“The electronics manufacturer has removed this imperfection using a combination of silicone rubber, two protective glass panels and a pair of AMOLED displays. The AMOLED displays are mounted seamlessly next to each other on a flat piece of silicone rubber, two glass panels are placed on top of the AMOLED panels, both to protect the displays and let you use them as touchscreens. This rubber sandwich is then mounted in a case and folded in half.”

As Gizmodo points out, this isn’t exactly the most useful thing in the world for smartphone designs, although certainly Samsung’s display technology will open some doors. But it could have a huge impact on tablets.

Large tablets like Apple’s (AAPL) iPad and the Motorola (MMI) Xoom are great because they provide big screens, but their 10-inch sizes also impacts their portability. Small tabs get the benefit of fitting into some pockets, but lose all that real estate. With Samsung’s foldable screens, tab designers could get the best of both worlds — a portable tablet that opens up to double size. Suddenly Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ comment about the lack of worth of 7-inch tablets doesn’t sound too bright.

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Samsung’s technology brilliance is with the highly elastic silicone rubber it has worked into the display. The company says its researchers folded the display more than 100,000 times and saw only minimal effects to its quality — it didn’t affect the elasticity of the rubber much, and the crease area of the screen was only 6 percent less bright than the rest of the display.

It’s also cheaper to make than other foldable displays, meaning it won’t be a game breaker for tablet developers.

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Phil Hornshaw

Phil Hornshaw is a freelance writer, editor and author living in Los Angeles, dividing his time between playing video games, playing video games on his cell phone, and writing about playing video games. He’s also the co-author of So You Created a Wormhole: The Time Traveler’s Guide to Time Travel, which attempts to mix time travel pop culture with some semblance of science, as well as tips on the appropriate means of riding dinosaurs. Check out his profile.

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