CES 2013: Samsung flexible phone prototype unveiled
Samsung unveiled its flexible phone prototype, running Windows Phone 8 and branded Youm, during a keynote at CES that also included former US President Bill Clinton.
The world’s biggest technology manufacturer said that Youm, the brand it has used for its flexible display technology since June, was a prototype that was not going to launch imminently. Samsung's continued emphasis on the technology will worry its rivals, however, and indicates that the Korean company is continuing both to work on new display technologies and to reduce its reliance on Google Android. It pointedly demonstrated the phone running Windows Phone 8.
The true impact of flexible displays, however, is likely to be hampered by the size and rigidity of vital processing and memory technology. The demonstration unit featured a flexible display attached to a small processing box.
Analysts say the first uses for flexible displays are most likely to be in devices that are more durable than glass because they can absorb force rather than crack under it. The new technology is also likely to be used, Samsung said, to wrap displays around devices and allow them, for instance, to show information on their edges.
Eric Rutter, Microsoft’s Chief Technology Strategy Officer, said that it was clear that displays did not need to be rigid. On stage at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the prototype phone was shown being flexed and bent without any conspicuous colour distortion, with other pre-recorded demonstrations shown on film. Referring to people who have talked about Apple's marketing creating a "reality distortion field," he claimed "we've actually built one".
Corning, the maker of Gorilla Glass, which is widely used across mobile phones, is also working on a flexible glass product called Willow. It is likely to be available in time for use on devices such as the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the forthcoming iPhone, but will not offer the flexibility of plastic. Subsequent mobile phone releases, therefore, may not use as much glass and may instead move to flexible displays.
Samsung has been working on flexible displays for a number of years, but its latest demonstration was the first to prove it has already talked to other companies about how it might implement flexible displays. Previous rumours have, however, suggested that it has also spoken to Google about a version of Android for such devices.
Samsung’s keynote also featured former American President Bill Clinton. He reiterated his observations on the transformative power of technology for the developing world, and also said he had seen how much medical technology had moved on during his wife Hillary Clinton’s recent hospital stay. He also added his voice to calls for stricter gun control in America.
Matt Warman, Telegraph.co.uk