Flexible phone screens are one of the most exciting prospects right now. There have been plenty of rumours and potential leaks regarding the companies supposedly researching how to create them, but new information suggests another firm is joining this smartphone arms race: Sony.
The Japanese tech titan has supposedly commissioned LG Display to supply it with flexible OLED screens, according to South Korean magazine BusinessKorea. An anonymous source familiar with LG Display told the publication: “We know that Sony is working with flexible OLEDs.”
So does this actually mean Sony is entering the race for a bendable smartphone? It's certainly one possibility, and a very strong one. LG Display already provides OLED panels to Sony for its TVs, but the fact that these new ones are flexible means there will be little use for them in this regard.
They could be used to create curved smartphone screens, similar to Samsung's famed “Infinity” displays, however if this was the case Sony would be taking a bit of a risk. They would be starting years behind Samsung, only to eventually end up with a feature that some are already calling gimmicky.
Given these factors, using the flexible OLEDs to create a foldable panel for a smartphone seems like a definite possibility for Sony. Of course, there is another issue with this; once again, Samsung seems to be years ahead of the competition, meaning Sony would be playing catch-up.
In fact, it's possible that Samsung already has a working prototype of a foldable smartphone. An anonymous source told The Investor: “Samsung Display said it has developed a 7.3-inch foldable panel with plans to start production later this year.”
This was supposedly revealed at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, on January 10th. Samsung allegedly held a private meeting for several of its select clients, during which it showed them its foldable prototypes and shared its launch schedule.
According to The Investor's source, Samsung had prototypes for both an infolding and an outfolding smartphone. However, the outfolding type of handset had durability issues, meaning more advanced tech would be needed to construct it, so the infolding device would be the first to be released.
Supposedly, we could see this phone as early as November, as that is when Samsung plans to start production. If Sony wants to market its own foldable handset to compete with this, then it doesn't have long in which to develop it.
Of course, Sony has its own flagship device coming out at February's Mobile World Congress (MWC) – probably the biggest smartphone trade show of the year – in the Xperia XZ Pro. There has been some speculation that its screen might be curved, which would be the reason for the flexible OLED displays, but given the short timescale this would be fairly unlikely.
However, the Xperia XZ Pro will probably ship with an OLED screen, just a flat one. Several leaks have also suggested that it will be powered by either a Snapdragon 835 or a Snapdragon 845 processor, and will come with 6GB of RAM.
Sony is also supposedly releasing another phone – again, probably at MWC 2018 – but it's not clear what this one will be called. Most in the industry believe it will be either the XZ2 or XZ Premium 2, but nothing has been officially announced yet.
The company is thought to be making the jump into 4K with one of its new releases, and the sharp, vibrant colours that an OLED screen provides could assist with this. However, as far as curved or flexible screens are concerned, we may have to wait a little longer.