Future Tech

Why Bendable Displays Would Be So Cool

Joel Lee 08-09-2014

Isn’t it about time that we’re able to roll up – or even fold – our digital devices?


And I’m not talking about curved screens, which are just as rigid as a regular screen, yet arguably less versatile. I’m talking about digital displays that can match paper in flexibility. Where are those?

Bendable displays are the future. Holographic displays would be more impressive, that’s true, but that probably won’t happen for a long while. Realistically speaking, flexible screen displays will be the next big revolution. Here’s how you will benefit.

Why Haven’t Bendable Displays Taken Off?

In theory, there isn’t much of a difference in the actual display technology between a rigid screen and a flexible one. In the end, you just need to produce colored light. The main issue is keeping the screen functional while under the stress of bending.

Most common display technologies Common Mobile Display Technologies You Should Know When you're comparing different mobile devices, whether they're phones, tablets, e-readers, or laptops, one of the differentiating features can be the display technology. But do you know the differences? Read More are unfit for dynamic bendable displays: LCDs require a fixed flat screen to produce a backlight and LEDs are too big to be bent, rolled, or folded and still produce light. As such, OLEDs are the current standard in the pursuit of flexibility.

“Just a few molecules of oxygen or moisture can kill the display, so the encapsulation requirements for an OLED display are quite significant.”

– Greg Raupp, “Flexible Displays Head to Market” [Broken URL Removed]

The downside of OLEDs is that they are rendered useless when exposed to moisture and oxygen. Both of these issues can be solved with an airtight cover, which is easy enough for a flat screen but extremely difficult when bending is involved. It’s made even tougher when production costs must be minimized for marketability.


It’s good news, then, that a company called Kateeva has developed a new sealing method that halves the manufacturing costs of flexible OLED screens. The news is quite recent and preliminary, so it’s yet to be seen whether this breakthrough can deliver on promises. However, it does bring bendable displays one step closer.

More Durable and Form-Fitting

The chief benefit of a bendable display is that it can do what traditional displays can’t: bend. This one fact alone has huge implications for the robustness of devices. If all goes well, you’ll never have to worry about a cracked screen again. Isn’t that a load off your mind?


But let’s take it one step beyond: the logical conclusion is that bendable screens will pave the way for bendable devices. Tired of stiff phones putting pressure in your pockets? Wouldn’t it be great if they just conformed to the shape of your thigh? Or what about a wide TV that can twist to fit the corner of your room, thus taking up less space? Incredibly convenient, if you ask me.


Portable Tablets? Try Digital Scrolls

Speaking of comfort, laptops and tablets Which Is Best for Productivity: A High-End Tablet Or a Cheap Laptop? How does a cheap laptop compare to an expensive tablet when it comes to actually working on a daily basis? Read More always take up a fixed amount of space. Thinner and smaller has been the ongoing trend, but nobody has really tackled the issue of carrying around a portable device that’s still relatively bulky.

While they might be fine if you’re just relocating to do work in a café, laptops and tablets don’t play nicely in cramped spaces.


With screens that are bendable and rollable, devices can emulate the scrolls of ancient history and make space requirements a thing of the past. If you’ve ever used a chunky laptop on a crowded plane or bus, you know how annoying it can be. Imagine if you could resize the physical screen at will by pulling it out and rolling it back in?


Flexibility For Wearable Devices

Another growing trend right now is wearable tech 6 Upcoming Wearable Devices Compared: What's Hot and What's Not I present to you six of the more interesting and useful wearable tech devices either on the market, or soon to enter it. Read More : devices that you can wear on your body. Like all other tech, the screens on wearable devices have been limited by rigidity, thus limiting their capabilities.

“The other big mobile trend that has been bubbling up over the past year is wearable peripheral devices that connect to your smartphone, like smart glasses and watches. If LG or Samsung gets the flexible display technology right, it could prove extremely useful in the new wave of small screens that the tech industry is betting we’ll wear on our bodies in the coming years.”

– Heather Kelly, “Are Flexible Screens the Future of Smartphones?”

Some consider wearable tech to be nothing more than a fad, but there are some real implications here that go beyond “look at me, I’m wearing the latest gimmick”. For example, consider specialized vital sign monitors that can be worn on the wrists, chest, or neck of hospital patients.

Integration With Odd-Shaped Surfaces

The biggest change will be the integration of bendy screens onto surfaces that were once too irregular for a normal screen. This might actually prove to be an annoyance if companies go overboard with it, especially if these screens are overwhelmingly used for advertisements and as marketing gimmicks.



Then again, some of the applications could be interesting. Think of any non-flat product or device and imagine what it would be like if it suddenly had a screen: mice, bulbs, mugs, shoes, musical instruments, steering wheels, doorknobs, toilets, or food cans.

Despite the fact that a lot of those ideas sound silly right now, all it would take is one ingenious innovation to prove how revolutionary a bendable display can be. Personally, I think we’ll be pleasantly surprised by how often the question “How did nobody think of that before?” crosses our minds.

Are bendable displays the way of the future? Or will they have an inconsequential impact on the tech industry? Tell us what you think in the comments below!

Image Credit: Flexible generic tablet Via Shutterstock, Bendable Watch Concept Via Shutterstock

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  1. Jessica C
    September 11, 2014 at 9:09 pm

    Where I live, sheet of paper indicating transit departure times wrap around bus poles (with a plastic tube around those to prevent weather damage). Because it's paper, it's always hard to tell if it's kept up to date - but if the bus poles had a simple bendy screen place of the paper, they could be updated digitally (if they have a wireless connection), and be capable of so much more. They could have other information like displaying the current time, if the next bus is running late, if there's a detour on the route, etc.

    So, get out there and look for non-flat surfaces that have an image or information on display, and then imagine what the world could be like if that surface could be dynamically changed - by being covered with a bendy screen.

  2. Dinika S
    September 10, 2014 at 3:57 pm

    It sounds cool! You know what a really freaky idea would be ? To have a screen on my garments.
    Weird but so interesting!

  3. John Williams
    September 9, 2014 at 5:19 pm

    Because curved stuff is more like nature as opposed to "man made". When men make curved stuffs like Ferraris or planes or sailing yachts, they are considered more aesthetically pleasing than the hard square edges of ultilitarian design. Although often it is just the mathematics and physics of aerodynamics that has demanded the expensive curves.

    A huge amount of industrial design can now have curved surfaces that 20 years ago were prohibitively expensive. Look at coffee machines, routers, printers, vacuum cleaners etc.

    The curved AMOLED's will soon find their way into the smooth curved sweep of your car dashboard. In fact anything that now has a flat touchscreen to control it will soon have the screen embedded into the curve of the product. The industrial designers won't be able to resist doing it.

    • Chris
      September 9, 2014 at 11:20 pm

      "they are considered more aesthetically pleasing than the hard square edges of ultilitarian design"

      And that is your opinion.

  4. Phid
    September 8, 2014 at 4:42 pm

    I still don't understand what the compelling need is for bendable displays, apart from wearable technology. Most other uses seem sort of gimmicky. Perhaps the best reason for them is more practical in nature, as was alluded to in this article: the ability for phones/gadgets to bend but not break in case of fall or other movement. This does not imply, however, that technology needs to be able to "bend" so much as to "give a bit" more than the current rigid offerings.

    • Joel L
      September 10, 2014 at 1:11 am

      Speaking for myself, I'm excited at the potential advancements that could happen in the wake of bendable displays. Taking current devices with rigid screens and making them bendable might not be too interesting, but perhaps there's a yet-to-be-invented device that utilizes bendable displays in a revolutionary way? Maybe not, but the possibility is exciting.