LG: Don't expect a flexible-screen smartphone in 2013
Contradicting previous claims made by other executives in the company, Kim Wong, vice president of the European division of LG Mobile, told Dutch site All About Phones that LG will not have a flexible display screen ready by the end of 2013.
Claiming the technology is not yet mature enough, Wong says LG will not have a device featuring a flexible device ready this year, according to several reports.
In late April, LG Mobile President Yoon Bu-hyun told the Wall Street Journal that LG Mobile was working in a partnership with LG Display to "introduce a smartphone with a flexible OLED screen in the fourth quarter" of 2013, which would make the company the first to market with a flexible display-based smartphone.
As recently as last week, LG appeared to be on track to fulfill this claim, showcasing a 5-inch flexible plastic OLED display at Society for Information Display's (SID) Display Week trade show in Vancouver. (Watch a video of the phone.)
If Wong's comments are accurate, LG's competitors would gain an opportunity to undercut the company with the first flexible-display-based mobile device on the market market. Samsung is the most likely candidate, having shown its YOUM flexible prototype at this year's Consumer Electronics Show in January.
Regardless, Wong's comments further suggest that the hype surrounding flexible displays in smartphones is overshadowing the reality.
Visiongain analyst Raza Ali says that although flexible display technology may enter the market by early 2014, it won't have much of an impact on the smartphone market until at least 2015.
"The technology has not come to the point where the whole device could be flexible," Ali says. "So the devices have to be rigid for now. This is the main drawback holding back the market."
Meanwhile, manufacturers looking to prepare flexible displays for smartphones still face developmental obstacles, Ali says. Historically, flexible display technology has been difficult to develop at a low cost, and while some progress has been made in that area over the past few years, manufacturers may need some more time to improve the process.
"I think the main thing holding it back is it still needs a lot more development, as well as new materials, because I think the materials are the things pushing costs significantly higher up, and I think the manufacturing processes need to be fine-tuned," Ali says.
Colin Neagle covers emerging technologies and the startup scene for Network World. Follow him on Twitter and keep up with the Microsoft, Cisco and Open Source community blogs. Colin's email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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