Samsung made a groundbreaking announcement in San Francisco this week. It unveiled the Infinity Flex Display, a custom OLED panel that folds down the middle into a more compact design. The idea has been floated around for several years, but it’s finally ready to enter mass production in 2019. Maybe there’s not so much to be excited about, though. Not yet, at least.
Technological breakthroughs are incredible, but this one seems to be missing a purpose. In fact, the Infinity Flex Display has some undeniable disadvantages attached.
Foldable phones aren’t the innovation I want, and looking at the Infinity Flex Display reminded me of exactly that. Samsung couldn’t explain many benefits, either. Aside from getting enhanced versatility out of a single product, you’re not exactly gaining a whole lot.
Here’s why we should remain skeptical on the Infinity Flex Display.
When closed, you’re stuck with a smartphone that’s extremely small and surrounded by a gargantuan bezel. It’s a world in which bezels are getting thinner, and even the Infinity Flex Display’s tablet mode doesn’t go light on the perimeter.
The Infinity Flex Display assumes that users will always be in tablet mode. Samsung’s taking a huge risk with that assumption as the modern smartphone’s looked relatively unchanged for over than a decade. Plus, tablets are in a decline. So there’s a monumental task at hand for the Infinity Flex Display to reshape how we use mobile devices.
By the way, Samsung’s reference device appeared massive in every aspect. The company referred to its prototype on stage as a “disguised” model, but I can’t think of how much smaller the bezel and even the overall size can get. Perhaps in a few years we’ll get a slimmer profile, but that must be far off.
The differences between this and Samsung’s previous display-related innovations are stark. With curved edges, Samsung didn’t remodel what a smartphone is at the core. Also, plenty of brands were already molding glass to their liking. As for the Infinity Display, it kept the skeleton of a smartphone but slimmed down the forehead and chin.
Don’t underestimate the uphill battle for the Infinity Flex Display to become normalized. Samsung’s asking developers to create entirely new experiences, and consumers are pretty happy with the current standard.
Samsung was quick to mention its durability. The Infinity Flex Display uses a newly-created protective layer with an advanced polymer that’s flexible as well as strong. Frankly, we’re going to need to test out the durability for ourselves. As we’ve seen in the past, things that don’t crack often scratch.
It’s hard to imagine something like this won’t collect damage. Furthermore, it’s not just the flexible OLED panel that concerns me. Behind the Infinity Flex Display, there’s a hinge and a frame that holds everything together. If it takes a tumble, these vital pieces can break and render the fold-friendly design useless.
All smartphones and tablets are susceptible to life’s accidents, but a consumer-ready device with Samsung’s Infinity Flex Display doesn’t seem so sturdy. It can probably handle knocks and swipes; however, drops could turn out to be disastrous for this technology.
Finally, it comes down to cost. Samsung raised its prices to an eye-popping level in 2017, and there’s no doubt the Infinity Flex Display will continue reaching for another galaxy. Global shipments are down for Samsung, and that’s largely due to pricing in addition to oversaturation. The Infinity Flex Display can excite, but it’s doubtful the hype segues into big sales.
Samsung deserves to be praised for this achievement, and everyone should still look forward to what’s possible in the future. It’s just that, right now, the Infinity Flex Display lacks jaw-dropping features. Sure, it folds and unfolds. What else?
We’ll see where Samsung takes the Infinity Flex Display next. The first consumer-ready device with it will be launched in a few months, and Google says third-party app developers can build for it. Some will, and the real test is whether or not both sides get momentum. If nothing formulates to result in outside support, you can expect Samsung’s Infinity Flex Display to fall flat for good.