​Samsung's bendable screen: Real innovation will be finding a use case

There's no reason that Samsung can't launch a bevy of bendable screen devices. Will it be able convince tech buyers that a bendable screen is a must have?
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

Samsung floated this concept in a widely panned commercial.

Samsung is reportedly working on a bendable screen that could be used in new smartphones, fold into a smaller form factor and be durable enough for daily use. The real innovation and marketing will be convincing tech buyers they need a flexible screen.

A Bloomberg report noted that Samsung's bendable screen could appear early next year in two smartphones. Samsung could also use the technology to create a phone and tablet 2-in-1 device. Samsung floated the idea in 2014 as well as 2013. Samsung already has its Galaxy S7 Edge device.

Samsung told ZDNet earlier that it won't comment on speculation.

For the moment, Samsung's bendable screen appears to have garnered some attention (again). But the real work for Samsung is finding a use case for a bendable screen.

Also: Samsung Galaxy S7 Active aims to double as business device too | CNET: Samsung Galaxy S7 Active review:A stronger and longer-lasting Galaxy

Richard Windsor, analyst at Edison Investment Research, said in a research note:

This is the third or fourth time in 6 years that Samsung has considered launching these products. The technology for flexible screens is not the problem as fully bendable displays that can withstand a beating with a hammer have been around for more than 6 years...The problem with flexible displays is that beyond one obvious use case which has its own problems, no one really knows what to do with them. The Samsung Galaxy Edge is a case in point as the curved part of the screen has no real function other than for offering alerts. Consequently, it is a nice looking, cool to have but otherwise pointless gimmick.

Credit Suisse analyst Keon Han agreed:

The key challenge would be to analyze how Samsung could propose value to consumers with foldable devices and what design/shape would offer that value. We do not believe there any longer is a technology hurdle enabling foldable mobile devices.

Now assuming Samsung can get the manufacturing down for a bendable screen a gimmick could come in handy. After all, gimmicks can sell devices. In addition, the tech industry--and certainly the smartphone market--could use a kick in the arse. Toss in Samsung's playbook to throw its screen technology at new categories such as phablets and it's not much of a stretch to see success ahead.

Samsung handsets through the ages: A photo tour of phone firsts

The obvious uses for a bendable screen would be a smartphone that folds, a smartphone that can expand into a tablet and a variety of 2-in-1 devices.

Samsung has the innovation, but it'll need the marketing and interface muscle to make its bendable screen ambitions reality.

Editorial standards