If you somehow manage to bend or twist a normal smartphone battery, chances are good that you'll need to get rid of it immediately, lest you be around when it leaks or possibly even goes up in flames. The average lithium-ion phone battery is built somewhat like a sandwich, with the anode and cathode ends passing juice back and forth; should they ever meet, the battery would fail, perhaps spectacularly. Bending and twisting a battery, of course, is just asking for its inner walls to rupture. Bending and twisting a battery, however, is exactly what Panasonic did. Not only did said battery not fail, it lost a minimal amount of capacity over lab tests involving a thousand bends and twists per test.
While this development is quite exciting, don't expect to see this battery in retail devices any time soon, and even then, don't expect insane capacity. Right now, the battery comes in three sizes. The smallest can only hold a charge of 17.5mAh, with larger ones weighing in at 40mAh and 60mAh. All three sizes are only .55 millimeters thick, which enables them to bend the way they do, but also keeps them from achieving decent capacities for anything besides wearable or IoT use. That, however, is where their appeal and use lies. Imagine a battery that could go in the band of a smartwatch, or in any spot in smart clothing, for example. Such a battery may also wrap around an IoT gadget to make it small enough to hide in plain sight. These wafer-thin, flexible batteries could also be used in an array in various applications.
Even with the product's fairly unfinished state, Panasonic will be shipping out prototypes to various manufacturers by the end of this month, just to let them have a crack at coming up with applications for them. Meanwhile, Panasonic will be working hard on capacity, and on enhancing the safety and flexibility of the batteries. Incredibly, they've even said that they plan to work on making them thinner as they work toward mass production. While the batteries may already be quite thin, making them thinner means more capacity in thicker substrates, and more possible applications of their thinner cousins. Hand in hand with the flexible OLED technology touted by the likes of Samsung and LG, a truly multi-modal flexible smartphone is clearly no longer in the realm of science fiction; it's just a matter of how long it will take for such a thing to become a reality.