10 Jul 2018

OLED Technology: The big innovation about curved smartphone

Is a curved display a significant innovation? Are curved smart phones faster and more efficiently than any phone? Do you gain from the curve? Why would you want a curved screen? What is the deal with these new phones? Does their unusual shape actually make the phone better to use or is it all just a marketing ploy to sell more devices?

As to whether a curved touchscreen display is a significant advance in technology, there’s plenty of evidence. These curved displays seem to be all the rage, with companies designing the screens for everything from smartphones to televisions. Flexible phones are built to withstand pressure, they are built to curve in your pocket, they are lighter, when you drop them there is no damage to the screen, you cannot break the glass. The technology is plastic and printable and flexible screens should be a lot cheaper. Truly flexible, durable screens that don’t break when they’re dropped or bashed would be reason enough for a revolution.

The future of smartphones is folding. There are differentiating smartphones adopted by cutting-edge technologies, such as foldable OLED displays. Flexible screens are by their nature more resilient than the brittle, fragile, glass-fronted touchscreen displays used in most current smartphones. Once technology advances to a point where circuit boards can be replaced by printed circuits to create fully flexible devices, even more innovative uses could emerge. Drawing on ideas from paper phone prototype, giving apps their own dedicated flexible pages, each with its own processing capability, could help to reduce the mental load of the user in switching apps.

It’s important to note that these innovative phones are not some crazy version of the future that may not happen; they are actually here and now. Phones are no longer just phones; they are multimedia devices, work stations, and the center for keeping track of a family’s finances, activities and medical information. Considering this, form factor is actually quite critical – which is where curved glass might actually be beneficial.

The curved OLED panel provides several key benefits based on just two of the innovations in a curved smartphone – a panel that is slightly curved, and a screen that is unbreakable. For those who still talk on their smartphones, there is a small painpoint where either the phone is too far from your mouth, or not close enough to your ear. Additionally, a curved panel will make consuming media much more enjoyable for consumers. Consider the recent explosion of curved televisions; when viewed by a single person in ambient light, you see fewer reflections. Also, when compared to a flat screen, you can fit a larger screen in a shorter width. Another tangential benefit of a curved screen is the added benefit of privacy for a single user, as when content is viewed from an off-center angle the screen is less legible.

These innovations emerge without a mass market need or to solve a real problem. The reality is that consumers may just not know they could actually benefit from the innovation — which has always been the story of emerging technology. Of course, once the technology is mainstream, we’ll all probably wonder how we ever lived without it — and forget we ever questioned why we would need it at all.

Smartphones can’t get any bigger. Bend them! They are the next hot commodity. And to find out whether curved smartphones really have a place in your pocket, there are entirely different design approaches. Design choices are the main reason behind the new trend for curved screens, not functionality. Ultimate promise of OLED technology is flexible screens that can be bent and twisted without damaging them and even screens so supple they can be rolled up like a towel. Creating highly flexible displays will require a flexible substrate (the layer on which the OLEDs are applied) rather than the glass substrate that is typically used today, OLEDs also need to be protected from humidity and oxygen; otherwise, the pixels get damaged and stop working, It’s not just the OLEDs that need to be flexible, though. The transistor backplane—the layer of  components responsible for electronically switching each pixel on and off—will need to be flexible as well, one could imagine a phone display that could be rolled up tight enough that it could fit inside a pen. When you want to use the phone display you simply unfurl it from the pen and then it rolls back up once you’re done, or at home, imagine if your television is actually rolled up like a window shade, and if you want to use it, you pull it down, watch TV, and then simply zip it up again. You can put them anywhere. You can put them in garments, so flexibility would be really a breakthrough for many applications.

One of the most persuasive arguments in favor of curved smartphones is that they simply look better. It may be difficult to imagine why, considering a curved display is essentially just a flexible OLED panel, but that gentle curve actually helps reduce the amount of ambient light reflections off the screen, which in turn makes it easier to see the display. Reflections from bright lights around you may prompt you to turn up the brightness on your screen, but by doing so you’re also using up more battery power. With less screen reflectance, you won’t have to worry so much about the ambient lighting around you, or have to crank up the brightness just to read a text message.

Are these enough reasons to entice you into having one?

Article by: Blessing Bassey

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