Industry insiders now claim that LG’s display division is working closely on a joint project to deliver folding smartphone panels to Huawei, Xiaomi, and Lenovo, according to new reports stemming from the company’s home country. As part of those ongoing efforts, the sources claim that LG Chem, the company’s chemicals division, plans to invest heavily in its Cheongju factory beginning in early 2019 in order to produce the adhesives, substrates, and other components needed for the panels. In the meantime, there haven’t been any details provided on the Korean tech giant’s partnership with Xiaomi but Huawei is said to be developing a 6-inch panel with LG. That will also be an ‘outward’ folding display, meaning that both halves of the screen will still be exposed when the handset it’s built for is folded up – half on the front and the other half on the rear of the gadget. Opening the device up will allow users to access both displays simultaneously.
Meanwhile, the work on Lenovo’s display panels seems to be a bit further along and will reportedly be mass-produced in Q3 2019. That will be an ‘inward’ folding design with no external display included, the sources say. Rather than including a secondary panel for quick access on the outside, Lenovo will have a portion of that still showing while folded so that pertinent information generally attributed to the notification shade in Android, such as the date and current time, will still be visible. Moreover, it will measure out to a massive 13.6-inch touchscreen set at a resolution of 2560 x 1600 when unfolded.
Background: Prior to the new reports, LG had already been indicated to be working with Lenovo on just such a folding display panel but not for a smartphone. Lenovo will reportedly be trying to use the scale of the panel to improve durability and in an attempt to revitalize the Android tablet industry instead. What’s more, the previous speculation on the matter has pointed to additional functionality including the ability to fold the device to a 90-degree angle and use the lower portion as a keyboard like a netbook. While there’s no verification for that expectation, for the time being, that would set the tablet apart from both others in the same category and other devices with folding screens. At the same time, the timelines from both the older report and the latest out of South Korea seem to support the concept.
Conversely, both Xiaomi and Huawei have also previously been reported to be developing smartphones built around a folding display panel. For the latter company, the alleged plan is to launch that new touchscreen technology alongside another relatively new networking tech – namely, 5G – and Huawei has been rumored to already be talking to carriers about the prospect. Xiaomi’s situation seems less certain, on the other hand, since it has supposedly been working on a new smartphone since at least July but its original idea was thought to be closer to ZTE’s Axon M. That’s not necessarily encouraging because that other handset was essentially just two screens bolted together and didn’t have much of an impact on the overall smartphone market. So it may be the case that details are slim on Xiaomi’s project with LG display due to the company needing to go back to the drawing board on its own project or it may simply be keeping its project under wraps.
Impact: Bearing that in mind, LG’s apparent timeline for its folding display panels in its own devices has been rumored to line up very closely with Samsung’s plans. The latter company already showed off its display, but not a device, at its own developer conference and is expected to announce a Galaxy-branded smartphone created around that in early 2019. That’s going to put a lot of pressure on LG’s display unit to get things right the first time since it is competing with one of the industry’s foremost display manufacturers and the foremost smartphone OEM. However, these partnerships may be exactly what the company needs to really do that if the sources are correct in their assertions. That will depend largely on the number of third-party devices sold with LG Display panels in relation to Samsung’s own push for the technology. However, with LG Display folding panels appearing in a wider assortment of brands, the company could gain access to the resources needed to push research and build recognition at a higher rate than its top competitor. It wouldn’t be impossible for that to give LG the edge it needs to come out on top in the folding and flexible display departments.