July 5, 2016

How Flexible Screens are Changing App Development

How Flexible Screens are Changing App Development

When you currently hear “flexible” screen, you’d likely think flexible means adaptable. However, developers at LG, Samsung, Lenovo and the Queen’s University’s Human Media Lab have developed screens that are not only thin and light, but are flexible — meaning pliable.

This June, it was the first time we’ve seen a real demo of bendable phone/tablet technology at the Lenovo Tech World 2016 in San Francisco. Meghan McCarthy bent the handset into a wristband-style shape and showcased a tablet prototype which could be conveniently folded in two.

Even though it is still very early work-in-progress, what is the benefit of having a screen that can bend and move when it comes to app development?

Adding More Complex Controls to Games

For games, being able to bend and move your devices display will add a new dimension of control and interactivity. Even with the best graphics possible, current phone and tablet games can only be played on a flat screen. Using a flexible screen, however, would allow users to push the screen away from them, bend it towards them or twist it around to create depth-based gestures. For developers, think of how controls changed and games became more detailed when moving from the original Nintendo to the Super Nintendo. This would be an entirely new way to control or move the objects on a screen, allowing games to become more complex.


The Human Media Lab researchers have developed the HoloFlex, a flexible holographic smartphone screen that plays ‘Angry Birds’. The technology is built into a Flexible Organic Light Emitting Diode (FOLED) touchscreen that can be bent by the user to control the bird-catapulting slingshot. Picture: The Verge

Mobile Wallets Don’t Bend!

The idea of the mobile wallet is great in theory, but often the question is raised “but what about my driver’s license,” or other credentials that have not yet gone digital. While mobile wallets have made headway, they’re still not really wallets, which can fold and fit neatly in your pocket. However, with a flexible screen, a display can either be built into the wallet itself (outside or inside the fold), or “smartcards” can become available, which could load any number of mobile payment apps, from PayPal to ApplePay. These “smartcards” and apps would both add functionality and appeal to users who aren’t ready or willing to give up their traditional wallet. Portable, thin, card-sized screens would open a new world of development and change the way we interact with both retailers and each other.


Getting Worn Out

Wearable technology may be impacted the most from durable and flexible screens. Currently, the most popular place to wear a device is your wrist because it lends itself to having a flat surface, like a watch face. However, many smartwatches can have comically big screens just to make them useful, while pedometers, like the FitBit, can’t display much more than the time on a tiny display. Flexible screens, however, can wrap around themselves and form cylinders, if need be. With this in mind, the entire smartwatch or fitness tracker being worn, face band and all, can become usable real estate to display information.


At the Lenovo Tech World 2016, Lenovo displayed the future of the next generation portable gadgets – wearable with foldable or bendable design. Picture: 9to5google

This will allow apps for wearable, like games on phones and tablets, to become more complex and detailed. If you’re using an app like Pandora, for example, the song would be able to display on the typical “face” of the device, while the volume and “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” could appear around the band.

Flexible screens are likely an inevitability, however, they have yet to hit the mainstream market. Because of this, developers have a chance to get ahead of the game and create apps that would benefit from screens with extra real estate and added functionality. If you have an idea for an app like this, contact Ciklum. Our team of developers will help you not only test on these cutting edge screens, but ensure you make it to market ahead of the competition.