Samsung Display has announced that its flexible OLED with ultra-thin glass is available to other manufacturers. This means that it's not just limited to devices like the Galaxy Z Flip - instead opening up a full range of opportunities for other companies.
The biggest player, of course, is Apple, with a 2019 survey from UBS suggesting that over a third of consumers asked would be interested in a folding iPhone - and happy to pay more for it. Rumours of a folding iPhone go all the way back to 2015, from patents for curved iPhone displays up to reports in 2017 that Apple was working on flexible products. Early in 2019 it was also reported that Samsung Display had provided Apple with samples for the development of new devices, although these are all firmly in the realms of rumours at the moment.
"With our existing polyimide cover window, development of the new extremely flexible UTG cover window 'Samsung UTG' now enables us to meet more demanding customer needs," said Dennis Choi, vice president of the mobile display marketing team, Samsung Display.
Of course the biggest concern around folding displays is their durability. Samsung's first folding device - the Galaxy Fold - had to be recalled and modified before being released, and it was the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip that launched to showcase the new UTG - ultra-thin glass.
The display technology has raised a lot of questions however. As Samsung itself reveals, the glass itself is only 30µm thick and it seems that it's then coated in a plastic layer on the surface itself. As recent durability tests show, it's some way off delivering the hardness that we expect from regular glass or Gorilla Glass.
These are early days for folding devices and if there's one thing we know about Apple, it’s that it likes to deliver on customer expectations. Apple won't pull the trigger on folding devices until it knows that they have the durability to deliver the Apple experience.
But this is a first step. With more devices coming onto the market, we're likely to see big strides forward in the durability of flexible displays and more innovative ways of using them. We might not be getting a folding iPhone just yet, but we're now a lot closer to seeing a wider range of folding devices.