Following certification by Underwriters Laboratories (UL), Samsung has announced what it is calling an "unbreakable" smartphone display panel. The screen technology is the result of research and development from Samsung Display and is not made of glass. Instead, it's comprised of a flexible OLED panel designed with an unbreakable substrate and a plastic overlay window. The plastic may seem like a step down from the now common hardened glass panels found in nearly every modern Android smartphone. However, the fortified window it is lightweight, transmissive, and has a hardness similar to glass, according to Samsung Display's general manager of the Communication Team, Hojung Kim. In fact, Samsung claims to have tested the display past the conditions required by the U.S. Department of Defense military standards. UL drop tested the display from just below four feet 26 times and at temperatures ranging from 71-degrees to -32 degrees resulting in zero visible or functional damage. Tests conducted at nearly 6 feet of drop reportedly had similar results.
The tests themselves don't necessarily confirm that the display tech is actually unbreakable and the company hasn't provided information about any other types of damage. Plastics have historically shown to be prone to dents or scarring and aren't immune to cracking but the results are impressive. In particular, the 6-foot drop test is well above the average drop height for a smartphone, tablet, or any other screen-enabled device. Beyond the obvious uses in mobile devices, tablets, or military-specific hardware, Samsung says that its new technology is well-suited to portable game consoles and in-vehicle displays. Ordinarily, screens are damaged by drops, bending, unintentionally hard impacts with other objects, and similar circumstances. So the tech would also make sense for use in laptops or laptop-like devices such as a Chromebook or in any number of other hardware where damage to the display would render the device unusable.
Meanwhile, although no pricing or cost evaluation has been provided yet, glass is typically much more expensive than plastic when used in a display panel, to begin with. That could mean a reduction in cost with improved durability for electronics in the future, once the displays enter mass production – if the displays can be sold at a significantly reduced cost over glass panels. Moreover, this type of screen technology could enable the real-world creation of devices found in some of the patents recently filed by the Korean smartphone manufacturer. Dual-screen devices, for example, are arguably more susceptible to damage since nearly every portion of the device would be comprised of a display. The devices in question would be difficult to safely place in a pocket or bag without at least one screen exposed to other objects that could cause damage.