As powerful as today’s phones are, their rectangular reliability has become a boring necessity that we hardly see at all. And that’s why handsets that bend, twist, snap and fold will electrify and energize the industry, even if these newfangled future devices limp and lag at first.
CPlus was a concept device Lenovo used to wow the crowd as part of a larger launch last June that included the modular Moto Z and Phab 2 Pro (the first phone using Google’s Tango software for augmented reality). The CPlus may have only been a prototype, but it might as well have been a fireworks show for the imagination it ignited about the future of truly flexible phones that can bend and even fold.
Why would we want a bendable or foldable phone?
Folding a device gives you a smaller, more portable package to carry around — it can essentially double the size of your screen.
In addition, devices like these “will be able to be produced like newsprint,” said Roel Vertegaal, who directs the Human Media Lab at Canada’s Queens University and works on prototype models. Producing some phone parts this way could eventually make the phones cheaper to build, he added.
But in the end Flexing, folding handsets are visually and intellectually cool because rigid electronic pieces usually don’t bend, at least not without a hinge. But is there an actual use for them beyond pushing the boundaries of what designers and scientists can do?
A cheaper, more environmentally friendly alternative to traditional flash storage is here: ultra high-speed, incredibly small, high capacity transparent and flexible memory. Scientists from the University of Exeter have presented a paper detailing the development of the new graphene-based storage solution, promising it could “pave the way for a future golden age of electronics”.
The new memory looks to be a perfect solution for use in bendable smartphones and smart clothing and could completely displace current flash memory in electronics if it is scalable with high yields. The researchers state the memory is cheaper and more adaptable than flash memory with “excellent endurance and retention performance”.
As the lead author of the paper, professor David Wright, notes, “Using graphene oxide to produce memory devices has been reported before, but they were typically very large, slow, and aimed at the ‘cheap and cheerful’ end of the electronics goods market. Our hybrid graphene oxide-titanium oxide memory is, in contrast, just 50 nanometers long and 8 nanometers thick and can be written to and read from in less than five nanoseconds.”
As with most developments like this, we could be waiting for several years before it ever makes it to the mass market, but it certainly sounds promising. With flexible smartphones right around the corner and even flexible li-ion batteries now available, you can bet the likes of Samsung and other major suppliers of memory will be investing in the new technique in the very near future.