South Korean manufacturers, LG and Samsung, have been discussing their flexible device technologies in the last few months. We have heard a number of rumours about Samsung working on releasing a Galaxy X device in 2017, which will be a flexible smartphone that could attract more interest than the flagship Galaxy S range. And whilst flexible smartphones are interesting and a number of manufacturers are chasing the idea, we have not seen many prototype designs that capture the imagination. However, today at the Lenovo Tech World conference in San Francisco, the company has demonstrated two flexible mobile technology designs. These are very much prototype products and are not the final names nor designs, but they look interesting and very much usable in the real world.
Flexible display technologies are one part of the hardware problem in producing a flexible smartphone or tablet: all components need to be flexible. Lenovo's solution is to divide the hardware into movable, different pieces, such that whilst the display may be pliable and completely flexible, some of the underlying components are not but also do not need to be. Curiously enough, this modular design might lend itself to a Project Ara type of device.
The products were demonstrated by Meghan McCarthy, and she first showed off a narrow looking smartphone, which could snap around the wrist something similar to a watch. She also demonstrated a small tablet, which could be folded like a book. Both designs are included in the gallery below, with Meghan explaining that the smartphone is an easier to carry alternative than a traditional device when wearing an outfit with no pockets – snapping it around the wrist made it easier to carry Lenovo were keen to point out that these are not forerunners to a retail design, the company did explain that they would be releasing a product later in the year with the promise that it will "bring a vision of the most flexible user interfaces that naturally connect people and devices." Other clues included how the new products will use "keyboards that don't necessarily act like traditional keyboards," but the company did not go into any detail as to what, exactly, this means. Similarly, we do know what specification these prototype devices have or if there are any compromises associated with the flexible design compared with a more traditional handset – for example, perhaps these flexible devices have limited space for batteries or camera modules.