The idea of a flexible smartphone, or more precisely, a flexible display, has been hovering around for the past couple of years. LG Display was in the news recently about building a new flexible OLED lighting factory to take this concept beyond the smartphones and the TV niches. Samsung reports that they are working to increase their flexible OLED display production with rumors they will introduce a foldable smartphone in 2017. And while we have seen a few prototype foldable or flexible smartphones, even in videos, it looks like a little-known startup company in China, the Moxi Group, will be the first company to ship a flexible smartphone – 100,000 by the end of 2016 to be exact. The phones will only be sold in China for about 5,000 yuan ($765) each.
From the pictures Moxi released, the device appears much more desirable than it is in reality. Lying flat, it looks like a smartphone with a speaker running across the top of the device and a large section at the bottom, which will house the battery. You can see the ‘sections’ across the sides of the phone which allow it to bend – much like the old style flexible watch bands. When you are finished using the device like a smartphone, you can curl it up around your wrist and wear it like a bracelet where one would still be able to see the display – whether you have the smartphone functionality while wrapped around your wrist is not known at this time.
Now for the letdown – initially this new device will only have a black and white display although colored ones are promised in the future. Chongsheng Yu, Moxi’s executive vice president said, "Black and white phones are much easier to make. The color model power usage is also much higher than that of the black and white unit. We’ll sell in China, and if there’s demand overseas, we’ll look into it." The screen is an e-ink display like those found on the Amazon Kindle – ideal for reading, but the contrasts are poor, and it is not very practical for video.
Still, the thought here is to get something new into the market that might help increase sales in what is becoming a stagnated market – according to Strategy Analytics, smartphone sales in the $423 billion industry declined for the first time in the first three months of 2016.