Until now, most mobile 'phone screens have been similar beyond the differences between LCD and AMOLED screens. A handset have been curved and even fewer have been intentionally flexible. Today, I bring you news of an interview between a couple of LG Display's engineers and The Wall Street Journal. The two engineers, Lee Bu-yeol and Park Weon-seo, are involved in see-through and flexible displays respectively. These advanced technologies may be coming to a smartphone soon, although not yet as the technologies are still in their relative infancy.
Firstly, let me talk about transparent displays. This technology is much loved from science fiction authors and producers: what looks cooler than an image projected onto glass set in the near future? Currently, LG's see-through displays have achieved around 30% transparency, which is all well and good but one of the stumbling blocks for using transparent screens on our smartphones is that nothing else is transparent! Processors, GPUs, batteries, camera modules are all visible and cannot currently be made transparent. Instead, we might end up with a transparent display and a bump at the bottom where the electronic components are, although current technology (especially battery technology) does not permit this. That space behind the screen is usually full of battery! Nevertheless, transparent displays have a certain utility for wearables (Google Glass, Android Wear) and of course for vehicles, public transport, that sort of thing. There's another utility in a transparent glass television, although this may have as many drawbacks as advantages (I use my television to hide a messy bit on the wall). LG's target is to get the clarity up to 40% inside the next three years, which compares with traditional glass having a transparency of 92%.
Flexible display technology is arguably more relevant to smartphones and devices. We've already seen the LG Flex with a curved and flexible display, but LG Display is working on paper-thin, flexible and light displays. This opens up many opportunities from a smartphone and wearable device perspective. A folding display might be employed to allow us to convert a small screen handset into a larger screen tablet, although currently there are issues with this as the displays cannot be completely folded. Flexible displays could be easily deployed for wearable items of technology such as draped over a smartband or bracelet. One area that the industry is pushing towards is that of colorful, thin, e-paper type displays, which could be installed almost anywhere. LG believes that we are, however, several years from this technology. Ultimately, neither flexible nor transparent displays are breakthrough products in their own rights, but they should allow the designers of future smart technology a lot more flexibility.