Samsung has put in a new patent application with the World Intellectual Property Organization that shows off a new use case for its flexible OLED display panels, and could very well be usable in a bezel-free device, depending on how it's set up. The substrate shown has connector slots at the very edge, and is shown curving backward about 90 degrees. This means that the screen could potentially connect to the motherboard in a number of creative ways, opening up entirely new design possibilities for both folding and flat smartphones.
Background: The patent here consists not only of the described substrate and connector, but also a number of potential display devices using those and various other parts. There are a grand total of 20 display device design claims in this patent, all centered around that bendable substrate and its back-facing connector. Some of the highlights include power supply and backlight holes surrounding the display area, power supplies fed through insulating layers laid atop the outer sides of the display, and even a design with a single contact hole that all of the substrate's power and data goes through to get to the connector, and eventually to the motherboard. What all of these have in common is that they make it possible to use the substrate as a centerpiece for designs both conventional and unconventional, all within the same product. The plan seems to be, if Samsung does decide to actually use this patent, to pursue one or more of these proposed designs and put out a single display product that can be mass-produced and used across Samsung's product line and those of licensees, thereby reducing the overall cost of deployment and making life much simpler for repair outfits that may have to order and install replacement screens for devices that use this design.
Impact: The most obvious use case for this is a totally bezel-free smartphone that's all-screen on the front, with a curved edge that ends only where the back half of the phone, and the plastic, metal, ceramic or other body material begins. While a small bezel could be required for some sensor hardware, the advent of display holes and continued research into ultrasonic and in-display solutions for both the fingerprint sensor and the proximity sensor could eventually lead to Samsung using this patent for a truly bezel-free device. It could also use this to create a lower-power and higher-durability standard smartphone, among other gadgets. A flexible screen doesn't necessarily have to flex or curve, after all. This could also be useful for foldable devices, or devices that are made to stand up to being accidentally bent, much like the old LG Flex lineup. As always, it should be noted that this is all simply conjecture at this point, and Samsung may have something different in mind entirely with this design. Likewise, it could be planning something that serves the same purpose as this design, but is not this design outright, and thus, it has come up with another method to achieve the same effect and want to keep competitors from using it. Samsung could also, of course, simply never make anything like this and just keep the patent in its back pocket.