Flexible display technology might become the way of the future for the mobile market, and two of the largest display manufacturers in the world – LG and Samsung – have been working on improving the technology for the past few years. But while Samsung is expected to launch its first flexible smartphone ahead of its rival LG, it looks that the latter is seemingly winning the battle in terms of intellectual property, with a recent report from KIPO revealing that over the past six years LG has filed more patents pertaining to flexible display technology than Samsung itself.
Specifically, the Korean Intellectual Property Office recently revealed that LG Display, i.e. the group's arm who specializes in display manufacturing, has applied for a total of 94 patents related to flexible display technology, while Samsung's display division filed for 80 patents in the same area. Additionally, their parent companies, LG Electronics and Samsung Electronics, have applied for 17 and 23 patents, respectively. As for what these patents actually entail, according to KIPO a total of 86 applications describe housing technologies and hinges required for mobile devices featuring a flexible/foldable form factor, while an additional 50 patents revolve around technologies designed to restore panels after they have been unfolded. Furthermore, 48 patents revolve around technologies pertaining to the touchscreen, while 22 patents explore the concept of a cover window. Interestingly enough, according to reports citing KIPO, durability will play a key role in the development and commercialization of foldable smartphones, and as a result, manufacturers who are, and will be able to secure technologies for this emerging segment will inevitably have an advantage over the competition. Having said that, it seems that both LG and Samsung are in a favorable position, assuming that flexible display technology will become successful.
LG Display and Samsung Display have been locked in a race for years, with both giants betting on flexible display technology but taking slightly different routes. LG's efforts have led to the creation of devices like the LG Flex smartphone series several years ago, while Samsung is already enjoying the fruits of its labor with the popularization of the "edge" display, which is presently adopted by the majority of its premiums smartphone models, including the latest Galaxy Note 9. However, while flexible displays can be used to create curved panels in the manufacturing process, the next big step will be to introduce flexible panels that can be folded and unfolded by the end users, thus promoting new form factors for the smartphone market which, over the past several years, has been primarily dominated by the so-called "chocolate bar" form factor. Only time will tell who will win the race but Samsung, at least, is expected to introduce its first flexible mobile device next year.