There's been much ado over the last few years about foldable displays and the implications they could have one on smartphones, wearables, IoT devices and other gadgets. A great many firms are involved in trying to get foldable displays to market, including big names like Samsung and LG. Much like in the days when curved displays were up and coming or the processor wars that have been on since smartphone history, everybody who's anybody is racing to get themselves a piece of the pie. Even though each participant in that race is using different technology to achieve foldable displays, the field in general is growing by leaps and bounds as a result. According to the Chinese arm of research firm IHS, the development is going so well that we may be able to carry folding smartphones as early as 2017.
According to the Research Director for IHS China, Kevin Wang, the tech is currently on level to give folding smartphones a folding radius of as little as 3 millimeters. This essentially means that an OEM could make a phone with all the trimmings and an extra three millimeters of thickness for the screen's folding radius, and it could be fully foldable like the flip phones of old. For reference, that equates to about eight millimeters, or the thickness of the HTC One S. The Samsung Galaxy Round's display, meanwhile, sports a 400 millimeter curve, meaning it would have to be over a foot thick in order to curve completely into itself.
What this all means to most consumers is that news of foldable smartphone patents, rumors and leaks will be hitting the web throughout 2016 and, if Wang's prediction is right, we will see the first consumer models featuring foldable screens just after 2017 begins. Wang did not reveal much more detail than that, including how he complied the data and what sources he used. It is entirely possible that Wang could be predicting a later commercial arrival than what will actually happen or the market could lag a bit. In either case, OEMs are already starting to make announcements and patents for tons of different use cases.