According to new IHS studies recently published, foldable displays are expected to comprise more than 51% of total display shipments in 2020. Global shipments of foldable displays will grow at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 58% from 2016 to 2020, reaching 180 million units in 2020.
Jerry Kang, principal analyst for IHS Technology stated that "Foldable displays are leading to innovative new applications and revolutionizing the flexible display market. In fact, we can expect to see foldable tablets and smartphones as early as next year."
While this sounds promising, the fact is that mobile devices with foldable displays have been forecasted for year now, especially from Samsung, and it's always been delayed. The latest news of this surfaced in late 2014 in our report titled "Samsung Throws a Hail Mary at Wall Street Analyst Meeting." We were to see a folding device from Samsung in late 2015 and that's just not going to happen. So now it "might be" in late 2016.
Jerry Kang further noted that "The intrinsic benefits of flexible displays -- including ruggedness, lighter weight, decreased thickness, reduced brittleness, and greater portability -- are feeding new applications in the display market. LG Display and Samsung Display have already introduced flexible OLED displays in their flagship premium smartphones, while Apple Watch, which also boasts a flexible OLED display, has spurred the momentum of flexible displays in the wearable device market. "Flexible displays are receiving a lot of attention, not only from consumer electronics giants like Samsung and Apple, but also from start-up companies experimenting with new and innovative applications."
With a recent sharp rise in the number of patent applications for flexible display technologies, the market for various types of flexible displays is expected to broaden. According to IHS, 312 patents for flexible displays were filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office in 2014; user-interface technology was the most active sector for patent applications. Flexible displays accounted for 62% of US display patent applications in 2014.
an Lim, senior analyst of intellectual property for HIS stated in their report that "Flexible displays are next-generation display panels fabricated on a paper-thin and flexible substrate, so that they can be bent and rolled without damage. These types of displays, which lend themselves to far wider applications than conventional rigid displays, are projected to create an entirely new display market and replace existing non-flexible display solutions."
Samsung Electronics filed half of all new flexible display patents in the US, followed by LG Electronics at 17%. You could review some of Samsung's patents relating to flexible and folding displays in our special Patently Mobile archives here.
While Apple doesn't have many flexible display patents on record, you can find a number of them in our "Flexible Display" archives here, which includes a few interesting ones like this one and this one that are noted below with patent figures.
Most of Samsung and LG patent applications focus on preventing image degradation, reducing device distortion and providing a range of user interfaces for bendable and foldable displays. Patents on parts and manufacturing technologies that primarily focus on the use of polyimide flexible substrates and metal nanowire in OLED displays were also popular.
In order for smartphone sales to see continued grow over the coming years we're bound to see exciting new features from Apple like Air Gesturing and a 3D camera/scanner that uses technology they gained by acquiring PrimeSense and LiNX over the last few years.
And if Jony Ive has anything to do with it, we're also likely to see new iPhone form factors that could very well implement new foldable or flexible displays in the future to keep Apple fans wanting to upgrade forevermore.
While today is not the day for such advancements, we're bound to see the iPhone 6s debut with great new features and maybe a surprise or two later today at the Apple event that's set to begin at 10 A.M. PST. Enjoy the show