Origami Day: The future of flexible phones

Are bendy smartphones coming soon?
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Origami Day: The future of flexible phones

Today is Origami Day, and in honour of this celebration of the Japanese art of paper folding, we’re taking a closer look at the long-anticipated flexible smartphone.

Where are our flexible phones?

Ever since Samsung launched the original Galaxy S smartphone, the South Korean tech giant has been rumoured to be working on a flexible smartphone. Those rumours really took off when Samsung prepared to launch the Galaxy Round, but all we got was a phone that looked like one of those souvenir warped pennies.

Samsung Galaxy Round

There have been a couple of things stopping Samsung, or anyone else for that matter, launching a flexible phone. The first is battery tech. Rechargeable batteries, like the one in your phone, have a habit of exploding when bent.

The second problem is the computer chips that make your phone smart. Have you ever held one of those green bits of plastic covered in little bits of metal? Not too bendy, are they?

But in the last year or so, both problems have been solved. And now there are fresh rumours of a flexible Samsung smartphone. So does that mean a bendy phone is imminent?

The solutions

Flexible batteries have been around for a few years, but it’s only been in 2015 that the technology has been perfected for our gadgets.

The most promising flexible battery arrived in January. The J.Flex really is an origami battery. It’s designed to be reshaped a million times without breaking and is so thin and bendy that it can be folded into classic origami designs.

J.Flex flexible battery

The only problem is that because J.Flex is so thin, it doesn’t hold a lot of power. But with a bit of development and investment, we think you could squeeze a decent amount of charge into a phone.

Flexible circuit boards have also come a long way in 2015 and could now be advanced enough to run a smartphone. These ingenious bits of tech are printed, making them surprisingly cheap to produce. They’re not foldable, like the J.Flex battery, but they will bend in a flexible phone.

Flexible circuit board

What will the first flexible phone be like?

The latest rumours claim Samsung will launch a foldable phone at the start of 2016. It’s supposedly codenamed Project Valley, and Samsung has already teased it in a concept video from 2013.

According to unnamed, unverified sources reporting to tech news websites, Samsung Valley has a screen that can be folded in half without ever showing a crease. The idea being that you can enjoy a big-screened phone, then fold it up and put it in your pocket.

The next generation of flexible phones

If Samsung does launch the Project Valley foldable phone in 2016, the next step will be futuristic roll-up devices like the concept below.

Samsung roll-up tablet

Then, making use of perfected flexible batteries and circuits, we’ll end up with devices that have no solid parts. You could fold your phone any way you like to fit it in a pocket, or simply screw it up and chuck it in a bag. By that point, though, we might all just have smartphones embedded in our brains or have some other futuristic, creepy communication tool.

What are your thoughts? Join the conversation here…

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