Bendable glass was supposed to open up a science-fiction future: a folding phone. However, the actual glass relied on factory-installed plastic screen protectors to prevent it from breaking when folded to be wound. Now LG wants to get rid of the middleman by improving the plastic. The company has announced “Real Folding Window”, a covering material that is as hard as glass but has no overall cracking issues.
What’s the secret? Well, LG doesn’t say exactly in the press release, it just says “new material” they use to coat both sides of plastic film, i.e. PET film. (PET is probably best known for the plastic in soda bottles.) By applying a coating to the plastic and then applying that covering material to a flexible OLED panel, you’ll have a folding screen that lasts longer than today’s folding devices. There are less noticeable wrinkles. LG says it should also increase price competitiveness.
In fact, LG says the coated PET should work on tablets, laptops and even rollable screen phones. We also see possibilities for devices with a screen that folds. Out, not just the inside, as we’ve seen with Samsung’s Galaxy Z Flip, Z Fold and Moto Razr. LG also states that “we’ve seen significant improvements in the fold lines that occur in the folds of the screen.” You can unlock even more with the quirky clamshell phone design seen in prototypes and patent applications.
LG’s current timeline doesn’t seem to commercialize the technology until 2023, and it’s not clear how it will actually superimpose on glass in any other way (eg clarity) when it arrives. Samsung also got on the PET train. As we wrote, the Galaxy Z Flip 3 and Galaxy Z Fold 3 have ultra-thin glass (technically made by German manufacturer Schott) covered with a layer of “stretchable PET”, which is far superior to the rubbery screen protector Samsung. It had to be shipped with an older model.
Samsung is said to be ramping up production of foldable screens to other handset makers, including Google. And it is said to be working with Corning, which is making its own folding glass to compete with Schott. If you’re a gadget lover who wants the foldable price to come down to the world, it’s good to have more competition with LG.
Without additional vendors, Samsung is already pushing the folder hard. We called Samsung’s $1,000 Galaxy Z Flip 3 “the first folding phone for the public” and thought the more expensive Z Fold 3 was also “almost normal”.