The Galaxy Fold and Mate X are the best examples of what foldable smartphones may look like in the future, but they’re hardly the only ones.
A variety of smartphone makers are already working on handsets with foldable screens, Apple included.
Apple has hinted time and time again over the years that it’s developing the kind of technology that will allow it to create an iPhone with a foldable display, though it hasn’t ever explicitly stated that it’s working on such iPhones. But the one piece of tech Apple might need to make a foldable iPhone won’t come from Cupertino. Instead, Apple might be waiting for a supplier to deliver the kind of technology the Galaxy Fold and Mate X lack before it considers making a foldable iPhone.
Corning is the supplier in question, a company known for the glass panels that protect most noteworthy smartphones nowadays, although the company has plenty of expertise when it comes to glass in general, not just smartphone displays. A report a few months ago detailed a Corning foldable glass prototype that measures only 0.1mm and can bend around a radius of 5mm. It looked like this:
Image Source: Corning via CNET
The Galaxy Fold and Mate X both feature plastic screens that bend easier than glass, but they’ll be more prone to scratching than glass. It’s a tradeoff that vendors seem to be comfortable with, especially since they’re very durable. For example, Samsung says the plastic screen can fold hundreds of thousands of times on the Galaxy Fold. Huawei also insisted that the Mate X’s display will be durable.
Only Huawei allowed reporters to touch the Mate X at MWC 2019, as long as specific instructions were followed. It folded and unfolded with ease, apps were quick to adapt to a new form factor, and it felt great in the hand. With great viewing angles and vivid colors, that foldable screen really felt like the future. But from certain angles, you could see exactly where the screen folded. It wasn’t a crease, but more of an uneven in the plastic.
Image Source: Chris Smith, BGR
Glass, meanwhile, would deal better with scratches than plastic, but conventional glass can’t fold like plastic can. Corning is working on a product that could meet the needs of smartphone vendors looking to make foldable phones.
“Glass today, the current choices out there, they’re not optimal” for folding smartphones, Corning’s John Baynes told Wired. “In a glass solution, you’re really challenging the laws of physics, in that to get a very tight bend radius you want to go thinner and thinner, but you also have to be able to survive a drop event and resist damage.” More