Are Flexible Screens the Next Big Thing?

Samsung is using its sizable presence at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) to not only show off its flagship technology—including tablets and smartphones—but also offer a glimpse of what’s to come.

That “what’s to come” includes flexible screens built into mobile devices. Samsung dubs this screen technology “Youm.” While Samsung has demonstrated flexible screens in the past, the technology’s prominent placement during a keynote address suggests that it could indeed end up in future products. According to CNET, Samsung’s keynote featured appearances by Brain Berkeley, senior vice president of Samsung’s display lab, and Eric Rudder, Microsoft’s chief technical strategy officer.

Rudder demonstrated a Windows Phone with a Youm display; however, nobody onstage indicated when (or if) actual products would appear with the technology in place.

Samsung isn’t the first company to experiment with flexible screens. Nokia offered a hands-on with a bendable display at its Nokia World conference in 2011; LG Electronics, not to be outdone, has also announced plans for a plastic display screen that someone could (in theory) roll up and slip into a convenient pocket.

Arguably the most popular seller of smartphones and tablets based on Google Android, Samsung has found itself locked in several long-running legal battles with Apple, which accuses the company of patent infringement. Whatever the outcome of those cases—liable to continue for some time, given the billions of dollars at stake—Samsung will continue to look for ways to expand its share of the mobile-device market.

Over the past few months, there have been indications that Samsung is also looking beyond Android to other operating systems. Bloomberg recently reported that the manufacturer intends to start selling smartphones based on the open-source Tizen OS. Although the Tizen project resides within the Linux Foundation, Samsung and Intel run Tizen’s all-important Technical Steering Group.

“The Tizen was born as Samsung hoped to lighten its growing dependence on Google on concerns that its top position in the smartphone market may weaken following the Google- Motorola tie-up,” Byun Han Joon, an analyst with Seoul-based KB Investment & Securities, told the newswire at the time. “Intel always wanted to boost its presence in the mobile CPU market.”

But there’s also the possibility that Samsung could seek to differentiate its portfolio via hardware—including flexible screens. But whether something so radical sees the light of day as a consumer product very much waits to be seen.


Image: Chad Zuber/