The SID Display Week 2016 trade show took place in San Francisco last week and showcased the newest, most cutting-edge display technology currently making its way through the pipeline. While several new concept smartphones and gadgets were on hand at the mammoth event, there was one booth that really stole the show – the demo of a rollable OLED display from Samsung. If you haven’t got around to watching one of the many demo videos circulating online, then just know that this concept is exactly as intriguing as it sounds – a display screen that rolls up to roughly the size of a 35mm film canister.
In the race for total dominance in the field of display screen technology, there are two major frontrunners – LG and Samsung. These Korea-based tech powerhouses perpetually remain ahead of the curve in terms of first-to-market concepts and ideas, and both have dedicated millions of man hours (and dollars) to their respective in-house display-making divisions. While LG was technically the first to debut their rollable display at CES earlier this year, my bet is on Samsung to be the first to bring theirs to market. First of all, Samsung has already established themselves as a go-to for curved screen devices. In 2013 they began teasing plans to bring a “new-age display to market”, and by 2015 consumers had fallen in love with the immersive, cascading, rounded edge of the Galaxy Note Edge and Galaxy S6 Edge, a tablet and smartphone that extended the world’s pre-conceived notions about how much real estate on a device could be utilized for its display. Secondly, Samsung puts a high premium on staying one step ahead of the competition and will likely do everything in their power to ensure the first rollable display smartphone has their name on it.
All things considered, for being no more than a prototype at the moment, the technology is actually pretty fascinating to watch in action. The 5.7-inch display has a 1920 x 1080 Full HD resolution and a pixel density of 386 pixels per inch, and the demos we’ve seen so far indicate it provides the same bright, brilliant colors we’ve come to expect from Samsung’s display department. The display itself is just 0.3mm thick and weighs only 5 grams, which makes for a screen that can be rolled into a tube with a mere 10mm radius. Sound too good to be true? Well for now, it kind of is. In its current state, the rollable display lacks touch technology, which would add significant heft to the device as well as hamper its rollability (while rollability may not yet be a word, expect it to hit the Dictionary shortly after this display hits the shelves). Additionally, the demo at SID was externally powered, leaving one to wonder where exactly a battery would fit into a commercial version of the screen.
As with most first-of its-kind technology, there are obviously still a few kinks to work out. When asked how many rolling and unrollings the OLED could be expected to handle before there was risk of cracking or breaking, a Samsung representative replied “that’s a good question” and left it at that. For now, it’s intriguing to simply ponder the endless possibilities that new technology continues to present us with.
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