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Phones to TVs: The future of tech is flexibility

Tue, 01/07/2014 - 3:10pm
Stephanie Carmichael, Contributor

When I think about technology, “flexibility” isn’t a word that pops to mind. That's about to change.

I would never dream of bending my laptop, camera, television, or any of the other electronic devices cluttering up my apartment. But LG’s G Flex Android smartphone, which the company is displaying at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) this month in Las Vegas, is a curved device meant to be flattened — twisted, dropped, and sat on. It’s designed to withstand pressure, which is handy considering how brittle smartphone screens are — vulnerable to falls on hard floors, the sidewalk, wherever.

Now if only the curved shape made it waterproof (a lot of people lose their smartphones in the toilet).

On the plus side, the G Flex’s special protective nano-coat minimizes damage by “self-healing” hairline scratches on the phone’s backside. While I’m interested in how this magic works (through a combination of time and heat, apparently), the bigger question is how much physical stress the phone can endure without permanent internal damage. Reportedly, it can survive 88 pounds of force, but you probably shouldn’t go around flex-testing this bad boy. It could still break, just like it could still suffer too big of cuts to erase.

LG isn’t the only technology company thinking flexible. Together with Samsung, it’s showing off new curved OLED (Organic Light-Emitting Diodes) television screens at CES 2014 as well. In this case, you probably won’t be sitting on or dropping your television (we hope). The design does make it easier to “bend” the screen so that you can achieve that perfect viewing angle. The image reforms with it so there’s no distortion. And you can control all of this with a remote.

 

It doesn’t look like LG will back off from this trend, either. It believes 40 percent of smartphones will be bendable, flexible, or curved by 2020. Other forms of technology, like what we’re seeing with the OLED televisions, could easily follow suit. For example, last year’s Wexler Flex One e-reader from Russia, which uses LG’s technology, is flexible and damage-resistive similar to the G Flex smartphone. You can stick it in your back pocket and even sit with it there if you want.

I’m all for this revolution. With how much money we spend on electronics these days, and how much influence they have over our lives, a little flexibility sounds like more than a cool party trick — it sounds like insurance.

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