Samsung's Next Batch of Futuristic Displays Can Flex, Fold, and Slide

Samsung’s new S-foldable concept features an innovative multi-folding design that can bend both inwards and outwards depending on the device.
Samsung’s new S-foldable concept features an innovative multi-folding design that can bend both inwards and outwards depending on the device.
Image: Samsung

While other companies continue to play catchup, at the SID’s annual Display Week event, Korean tech giant Samsung just showed off its next batch of futuristic screens that can do a lot more than bend and flex.

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Now it’s still too early to say when these prototypes might turn into actual retail devices, but at SID 2021 Samsung Display showed off a range of next-gen display tech designed for various devices including both phones and laptops.

First, there’s Samsung’s S-foldable prototype, which unlike the bendy screens Samsung used in the Z Fold or Z Flip lines features a multi-fold design that can be fully unfurled to reveal a large 7.2-inch flexible OLED display. Samsung says that with the S-foldable concept, the goal is to create something similar to the Galaxy Z Fold 2 that can transform into both a phone and a tablet while being even more compact when collapsed.

Samsung’s slider concept looks to swap out a bulky hinge for a slimmer and more elegant design that allows a device’s screen to extend out from the side.
Samsung’s slider concept looks to swap out a bulky hinge for a slimmer and more elegant design that allows a device’s screen to extend out from the side.
Image: Samsung

Alternatively, instead of bending inwards or outwards, Samsung also teased a slider concept using a display that can extend horizontally while maintaining the same general shape. While Samsung only showed its sliding screen extending an inch or two in its photo, Samsung’s slider concept could represent another avenue to create a screen that can change sizes depending on the situation while also cutting down on thickness and the need for a complicated hinge.

Additionally, for people who want a truly large foldable display, Samsung also teased a 17-inch flexible OLED screen built into a laptop, allowing the device to be propped up when you want maximum screen real estate or folded in half to become a more compact clamshell with a touchscreen that spans both halves of its chassis. We’ve seen similar designs in devices like Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Fold, though with a display that tops out at 13.3 inches across, Lenovo’s take (which is based around a flexible LG OLED panel) is significantly smaller.

Samsung’s 17-inch foldable concept could be a preview of where laptop design is headed.
Samsung’s 17-inch foldable concept could be a preview of where laptop design is headed.
Image: Samsung
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And in what might be the most long-awaited piece of tech, Samsung also teased a laptop with an Under Panel Camera (UPC) that eliminates the need for a visible camera lens/sensor by hiding it behind a traditional OLED screen. This tech would have several implications for both phones and laptops, allowing OEMs to eliminate the notches or punch-hole selfie cams seen on today’s phones, while also ditching the need for a top bezel on laptops where a webcam might otherwise go.

On its own, it might not seem like much, but Under Panel Cameras are sort of the last step in removing obstructions or distractions from modern displays. However, the hard part with UPCs is implementing them in a way that doesn’t significantly degrade a camera’s image quality, which up until recently has been the major hurdle preventing UPCs from gaining wider adoption.

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Still, while flexible displays and UPCs remain rather niche technology, it’s nice to see the tech continue to evolve, and who knows, some of these innovations might be featured in devices in the not-too-distant future.

With its Under Panel Camera, Samsung is trying to finally get rid of any distractions that take away from a device’s screen.
With its Under Panel Camera, Samsung is trying to finally get rid of any distractions that take away from a device’s screen.
Image: Samsung
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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.

DISCUSSION

lordburleigh
Lord Burleigh

This is a genuine question for people who are interested in folding screens, and I don’t mean it to sound snide: why? I realize that the computing power in phones is pretty much capable of doing a lot of what most computer rigs (that aren’t specialist for gaming or video editing) so, conceivably, they could become replacements for them, but it’s hard for me to imagine wanting to go that route, if only because I prefer to type on physical keys. Maybe it’s just an early middle age ludditism issue in my case. But honestly, is the reason to have a device that’s both a phone and a highly portable work station? That just doesn’t seem desirable to me.

On the other hand, the UPC makes complete sense.