We've seen patents for (and prototype) flexible displays before and Samsung has confirmed that it intends to start mass production of flexible displays late this year. Samsung intends to use those flexible displays on products in 2013. A new patent has surfaced today more focused on flexible displays with art that hints at some very interesting form factors for smartphones and other devices.
Foldable displays use plastic rather than glass as a substrate for the displays. The plastic allows a flexible display to be bent, folded, or rolled opening up the possibility of smartphones that are curved like bracelets or can be rolled up into a very thin profile. The patent in question showed images of just such a device with a screen that rolls up into a cylindrical holder.
The displays can into electronic newspapers, while keeping the same features that are used to in rigid screens. One of the benefits of these flexible screens compared to rigid screens will be very apparent to any smartphone user who has dropped their device and crushed the screen.
The flexible displays will be able to absorb the shock and bend rather than cracking and breaking, making a more robust screen that is lighter at the same time. According to the patent, the flexible display will be based on a substrate of flexible plastic, metal foil, thin glass, or other thin and flexible material. The patent also notes some the target products for the screens.
The patent reads that the screen can be implemented in any type of electronic device equipped with a display such as mobile phones, PDAs, MP3 players, computer displays, and notebook computers.
A tablet computer with a larger screen that can be rolled out when in use would be a very interesting device. The patent also shows off some interesting designs for e-readers that fold like a normal book. Samsung is clearly hoping flexible displays will be the next big thing in mobile computing; similar to the way the original iPhone pushed smartphones to embrace touch screens.