When we first started seeing foldable device concepts a few years back, I was intrigued but not particularly impressed. Many of those early prototypes felt very much like experiments: they were often bulky and the bendy displays seemed fragile. And there were creases.
Thankfully, display tech has come a long way in just a few years. That was particularly evident at LG Display’s booth at CES this year, where the company showed off two new mobile OLED concepts: a 17-inch laptop/tablet and an 8-inch smartphone-like device that can fold in two directions.
The 17-inch device is far from the first foldable tablet we’ve seen, but LG Display claims this one is “almost entirely crease-free.” We looked at it pretty closely, and there was a visible seam along the fold, but it was very difficult to detect when the tablet was fully extended. And there wasn’t any kind of rippling or gap that we sometimes see with foldables. Moreover, LG says the display was tested for up to 50,000 folds, so it should be pretty durable.
The other concept was something LG Display officially calls the “360-degree Foldable OLED,” an 8-inch display that looks a lot like Samsung’s Galaxy Fold, but folds in both directions. So, in addition to folding it closed, you can also fold it outwards, with the two displays in a sort of tent shape.
LG Display says these “360-degree” abilities could potentially allow an eventual device to be used in multiple different modes. Of course it would also depend on hardware makers and app developers to decide how take advantage of the functionality, but it’s interesting to think about how you might want to use a phone when it’s folded in the other direction.
Of course, two-way folding also requires a more durable display and LG says it’s delivered on that as well. According to the company, the 360-degree foldable is rated for 200,000 folds and is stronger than comparable foldable devices currently on the market. So while we don’t yet know for sure if companies like Samsung are going to pursue phones with these two-way folding abilities, LG Display has shown that such a device could be a lot closer than we think.