LG: Production of flexible display smartphone screens to start in Q4

Development on the industry's first commercially available flexible display for smartphones is complete.

By Colin Neagle, Network World |  Mobile & Wireless, flexible displays, lg

LG will begin mass producing flexible display screens for smartphones in the fourth quarter of this year, according to the Korea Times.

In a statement provided to the Korean newspaper, LG said development of the first flexible displays has been completed. In the fourth quarter, LG says it will apply a "4.5th-generation glass-cutting technology for the OLED flexible displays," with a monthly capacity of 12,000 sheets, according to the Korea Times.

RELATED:Flexible-display smartphones just a 'novelty'

History of flexible displays

The announcement is just the latest in a series made by LG to drum up publicity for an impending flexible-display smartphone, but reinforces confidence in the company's progress in the field. In an April interview with the Wall Street Journal, LG Mobile President Yoon Bu-hyun said it would "introduce a smartphone with a flexible OLED screen in the fourth quarter" of 2013, and in mid-May the company put a 5-inch flexible OLED screen on display at a trade show held by the Society for Information Display in Vancouver.Then, in late May, Kim Wong, vice president of the European division of LG Mobile, said the company would not be able to introduce a flexible display screen for smartphones by the end of 2013, according to Dutch site All About Phones.

While LG's original plan to release a flexible screen in 2013 may have fallen through, the latest announcement indicates that the company is not too far behind.

LG has high aspirations for flexible display technology. The Korea Times reports that the focus on flexible display technology came after LG Chairman Koo Bon-moo challenged his employees to develop products that can revive the company. Some LG officials hinted at plans to sell the screens to other device manufacturers as well, according to the Korea Times.

For LG, being first to market may be important to its future in the mobile business. Samsung has been forthright about its flexible display progress, making headlines with its YOUM flexible display prototype at this year's Consumer Electronics Show. However, Samsung is reportedly still developing a flexible screen prototype to make it suitable for commercial sale. The Galaxy Note 3, Samsung's next big expected smartphone release, is not likely to feature a flexible screen on account of "manufacturing-related issues," the Korea Times reports.

Regardless, flexible display technology is not expected to make much of an impact on the mobile market for another two to three years, Visiongain analyst Raza Ali says. Until handset manufacturers can make an entirely flexible smartphone, which would require a new design for internal components, flexible displays screens will remain "a novelty," Ali says.

However, manufacturers are expected to move ahead in the next few years to get in on the market early on, Ali added.

Colin Neagle covers emerging technologies and the startup scene for Network World. Follow him on Twitter and keep up with the Microsoft, Cisco and Open Source community blogs. Colin's email address is cneagle@nww.com.

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