LG Phone With Flexible OLED Screen Arriving 4Q13

On Wednesday LG vice president of mobile Yoon Bu-hyun told paywall giant The Wall Street Journal that the company plans to launch a smartphone with a flexible plastic-based OLED screen in the fourth quarter of this year. The LG exec did not say where this device will be offered, and what features it will have outside the unique screen offering.

A flexible OLED screen will give device makers more breathing room in their designs, allowing them to create form factors that break away from the traditional flat rectangle. Samsung revealed such a design back at CES 2013 which featured a flexible OLED screen that bent around one sloped side of a phone. This allowed the user to see notifications on the side of the phone as well as on the face.

LG's flexible OLED screens will be manufactured by LG Display who said during CES 2013 that the company was on track to start mass production in the second half of 2013. The capacity will be very limited, LG Display said, meaning that the company will only be able to handle one or two customers. These screens will consist of a polyimide coated substrate and direct-emission RGB sub-pixels.

News of LG's plans follows the OLED Association's announcement earlier this month that Samsung's upcoming Galaxy Note 3 will sport a YOUM display, or rather an unbreakable plastic substrate with an LTPS active matrix and RGB patterned OLED. The phone will be on exhibit at IFA 2013 in September and will be launched in 4Q13.

"Compared to glass substrate type AMOLEDs, the flexible display features a thinner and lighter form factor, resulting in smaller size and higher mobility," the Association said. "The display size is also expected to range from 5.5-inch up to 6.x-inch."

For example, an LCD screen of a specific size could measure 3.2-mm in thickness and weigh 160g. A glass-based OLED screen on the same size would measure 1.5-mm and weigh 100g whereas the new "UBP" OLED screen would measure 0.5-mm and weigh a mere 50g. That means more space under the hood for components like a larger battery.

"UBP OLED is built using thin film encapsulation and a PI (polyimide) backplane whereas glass substrate OLED employees glass encapsulation and cover glass," the Association explained.

Given that Samsung will showcase its Galaxy Note 3 in September, LG will likely do the same with its own flexible display solution, if not sooner. Nokia may also reveal a product sometime this year given its previous interest in flexible displays. How device prices will be affected due to the new screens is unknown at this point.

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