Today, Samsung’s DJ Koh pre-announced the enabling display technology for a new device category with foldable and flexible screens. Rather than using glass as a surface it relies on a polymer substrate, invented by Samsung Display, that makes the surface both malleable and robust at the same time. This gives the screen an ability to bend by 180 degrees in clamshell fashion, without cracks or degradation over its lifetime (hundreds of thousands bends, according to Samsung). No devices using this technology were announced. Samsung clearly knows how to design and manufacture great hardware, but will this be more than a flashy gimmick?
The answer lies in the software, and specifically the device-based AI functions to optimize two use cases: when I am in motion, I want my device to be nimble, and not weigh me down. When I am at rest, I want a big canvas for rich experiences to consume and even create content.
It will come down to the bendable devices’ software to optimize for both. How will Samsung’s version of the Android OS handle that? How and how quickly will my favorite apps support these new display modes? The real pressure is on Samsung’s AI Agent Bixby to learn individual behavior patterns and create optimized and personalized experiences. And it needs to perform this machine learning on the device, for snappy performance and instances of no network connection.
If Samsung’s software can enable these rich yet portable experiences, these devices will be more than a gimmick in my arsenal of productivity tools. There is potential to spawn a new and permanent product category.
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