Foldable Displays And the Future of Smartphone Design

How foldable displays are made and what could be the next-gen form factor

Sarvesh Mathi
OneZero
Published in
7 min readFeb 24, 2020

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Image courtesy of the author

TThe first portable mobile phone, the Motorola DynaTAC 8000X, weighed one kilogram, had to be held with two hands, took 10 hours to fully charge, had a 30-minute battery life, and cost $4,000. We’ve come a long way since then. The size and weight of phones have radically decreased over the years, and many form factors have rotated in and out.

Then, with the introduction of the iPhone at the turn of the last decade, mobile phones started growing in size once again. This was driven by demand for larger screens rather than technical limitations. Phones are now comfortably large, but the market for tablets hints at a demand for even larger displays. Some smartphone manufacturers have started to wonder whether we can have phones that still fit in our pockets but also have larger tablet-like displays, or further reduce the size of our current smartphone while still maintaining the display size. These ideas may sound like they defy the laws of science. How can we have something that is big and small at the same time? The solution to this riddle comes in the form of flexible displays.

Samsung Galaxy Fold (left) and Galaxy Z Flip (right). Source: Samsung

In September 2019, Samsung released the Galaxy Fold, a revolutionary device that folded to a pocket-sized phone and opened to a big-screen tablet. Although not the first to feature a foldable display (the relatively unknown Royole FlexPai bagged that spot), it was the first from a major smartphone manufacturer, illustrating the industry’s serious interest in this technology. The Galaxy Fold showed the world what was possible, but its legacy ended there: The $2,000 phone had some serious flaws that could not be easily overlooked.

Samsung’s follow-up was the Galaxy Z Flip, released this month. It’s a modern twist on the popular flip phones from the 2000s, though once again Samsung wasn’t the first: The Motorola Razr, inspired by its…

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