I Really Hope This Rumor About Flexible Glass on the New Samsung Foldable Phone is True

Illustration for article titled I Really Hope This Rumor About Flexible Glass on the New Samsung Foldable Phone is True
Photo: Wang Ben Hong on Weibo

Samsung has already demonstrated the vast potential of bendy screen devices with the Galaxy Fold, but there are still a number of improvements needed before foldable gadgets can really go mainstream. And if rumors are true, Samsung may have solved one of the Fold’s biggest shortcomings.

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According to Max Weinbach at XDA-Developers, Samsung’s next foldable phone—the Galaxy Z Flip (or whatever Samsung ends up calling it)—will feature a flexible OLED display protected by “Samsung Ultra Thin Glass” instead of the thin polymer layer Samsung used on the Galaxy Fold. Now just to be clear, this isn’t the first time we’ve heard this, because about a month ago, noted leaker Ice Universe also reported that the Galaxy Fold 2 (which is people were calling the Z Flip prior to more recent rumors) would sport an “ultra-thin glass cover for the first time in the world.”

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Regardless of who leaked it first, the importance of switching from a plastic film to a thin, bendy glass cover on Samsung’s next foldable can’t be understated, as it would help address one of the Galaxy Fold’s (and ever other foldable gadget currently available) biggest shortcomings: durability.

As it stands, the plastic OLED screen on the Galaxy Fold can be damaged by things like keys, pens, and even your own fingernails if you press too hard. So pretty much anything. Now if you know that going in, it’s possible to watch out for situations that might damage a flexible plastic screen. But when it comes to mainstream adoption, that level of toughness was never going to cut it.

There are simply too many unforeseen circumstances or accidents that can damage flexible plastic screens like that, especially if those devices are in the hands of millions instead of a limited number of bleeding edge enthusiasts willing to pay $2,000 for a phone. After all, if a selected group of supposedly knowledge nerd and gadgets reviewers couldn’t stop themselves from destroying sample devices, what hope would the general public have?

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But by moving to an ultra-thin flexible glass cover, not only would Samsung make its next foldable phone more durable and approachable to average consumers, but it also opens up some other important possibilities.

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Flexible glass could make the Fold’s crease a issue that no one would have to deal with ever again.
Flexible glass could make the Fold’s crease a issue that no one would have to deal with ever again.
Photo: Sam Rutherford (Gizmodo)

Remember how I said you can ruin a Galaxy Fold’s screen with a pen? Well, that also means there’s practically no way to add stylus support to a gadget like that. This is disappointing because stylus support would be a very enticing feature on a next-gen foldable, and thin flexible glass could pave the way for something like a Galaxy Fold Note. And as an added bonus flexible glass should mean no crease as it probably isn’t even capable of developing a crease without completely breaking.

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However, it’s important to note that while a flexible glass screen would solve a lot of problems with current foldables, it’s not an all-encompassing solution. The other big challenge for foldable devices are their hinge, and their ability to keep sand, dust, and other small particles from getting inside the device. On top of that, no foldable phones or laptops have any sort of meaningful water-resistance, which is something you really want, especially for a gadget that costs around $1,000 or more.

So while we’re still waiting for Samsung to officially announce the Galaxy Z Flip and its flexible glass cover, it sure seems like foldable display tech is moving quickly in the right direction. And at this pace, it might only be one or two more generations before we get something that’s truly made for the masses.

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Senior reporter at Gizmodo, formerly Tom's Guide and Laptop Mag. Was an archery instructor and a penguin trainer before that.

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IceMetalPunk

Has there been a breakthrough in materials science that I missed? I hear “glass” and I immediately think “brittle”...