The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 may indeed be the best foldable phone around, and it looks set to be followed up by the Galaxy Z Fold 4. But the next frontier for Samsung's folding phones and display tech could be with sliding screens.
This was hinted at by the new OLED Era microsite from Samsung Display, the screen-making arm of Samsung. The newly launched sub-site is showcasing some of Samsung Display's thin and flexible OLED panels.
While the square folding displays found in the current Galaxy Fold phones get their moment in the sun, the site also suggests that what Samsung calls "Flex OLED" could one day appear in phones with sliding displays.
Through the use of ultra-thin glass (UTG), Samsung could create a phone or tablet that effectively has a sliding display, allowing compact devices to expand into handhelds with larger screens.
We've see this concept before with the Oppo X 2021 concept phone, in which the phone stretches outwards, pulling flat the edges of a foldable display on both sides — effectively sliding out behind the phone to make for a larger screen. Samsung's "Slideable Flex" concept would seem to follow this system.
Doing this could make for a chunky phone when its display is wrapped around the back. But the ability to have folding displays sport a 1.4R curvature — as seen in the Galaxy Z Fold 2 — could let Samsung's slidable display wrap more tightly around a phone's chassis, thus making the device slimmer.
"An even crisper, cleaner fold and less space in between. The remarkably tiny 1.4R curvature of the Samsung Flex OLED creates a sharper bend, for more compact and precise smartphone designs," explained Samsung. "Folding stress is minimized by the display layers' staggered structure, making such a small curve possible."
Of course, Samsung has made no mention of any sliding screen devices it's working on — all we have is the above render image to base our thoughts on. But Samsung has long innovated display tech and device form factors, so it's not a huge leap for it to try and make a phone with a folding-meets-sliding display.
Innovations in Flex OLED could also lead to the next-generation Fold phone to have a sharper curvature and thus fold flatter, addressing one of our criticisms about the Galaxy Z Fold 3 — it's rather chunky when folded.
We'd likely need to wait until at least 2022 before we see what Samsung is working on next. The company is likely to launch the Samsung Galaxy S22 line next. But we feel we're very much at the cusp of a true era of devices with innovative and flexible displays.