LG has decided to stop making smartphones, but that doesn’t mean the company is going to pretend smartphones don’t exist. LG Chem, a subsidiary of LG Corporation has announced a new type of flexible plastic that could make future foldables prettier. According to LG, the new material will protect foldable screens better, while also reducing the appearance of creases.
After just a few years on the market, foldable phones have gotten surprisingly good. Consumers seem to agree, too. Samsung says pre-orders for its latest foldable phones surpassed all foldable sales from last year. Currently, almost every foldable phone has a crease down the middle, and not everyone can overlook that. Samsung embraces the crease, and it is something I’ve mostly stopped noticing. Motorola uses a sliding mechanism in its folding Razrs to lessen the appearance of the crease, but that has led to some durability issues.
LG calls this material a “cover window” as it’s intended to be the top layer of a foldable display. OLED panels have been theoretically flexible for years. That’s why curved but inflexible screens have been available for so long. It’s now possible to manufacture OLED panels that don’t fail after repeated folds, but adding materials to protect them is a separate challenge. Gorilla Glass is great at protecting OLEDs, but it doesn’t fold. Meanwhile, most plastics are too soft to keep a phone functional and looking good.
LG says the new cover window has the flexibility of plastic with glass-like durability to prevent damage to the OLED — it’s allegedly much stronger than today’s polyimide films. That also means it doesn’t crease as visibly as current materials. Current foldables have a similar protective layer over the display panel, but they’re made of different substances. In 2020, Samsung used TPU plastic, which is especially soft and easy to damage. This year, it switched to PET plastic, which is strong enough to handle having an S Pen raked across it on a daily basis. LG didn’t address the specifics, but presumably, the cover window plastic is even more durable.
With LG out of the phone market, we won’t be seeing this material on any LG hardware. However, the company will sell the technology to other companies, which could mean more options for foldables, a market Samsung is currently dominating with its industry-leading display tech.
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