Yesterday at Lenovo's Tech World event, the company demoed two concept products that were, frankly, kind of amazing. A foldable tablet-phone, and a bendable wrist-phone. While the on-stage demo didn't really tell us much about them, I sat in on a talk where we were allowed to take a closer look (though not touch, sadly) at these concept devices while learning more about them though.
What did I come away with? Well, first off, they are definitely engineering concepts. These devices are nowhere near robust enough for use out in the real world, and both looked, well, flimsy. But they worked - and that's what really counts with crazy stuff like this that just four or five years ago we would have dismissed as a fantasy. These are real smartphones that you can freaking bend and fold.
According to Lenovo, the real trick with foldable and bendable devices isn't so much the display - a lot of progress has been made there - it's the rest of the thing. Lenovo showed us two different approaches to dealing with the unique challenges of foldable and bendable devices. The slap-bracelet wrist phone goes for what you see above - an almost steampunk level of hinges that allow the bracelet to articulate. You can see the gaps along the phone where there are no hinges, and that's where the non-bendable electronic guts live (sorry, Lenovo hasn't invented flexible smartphone SoCs yet).The screen isn't cracked - that's a gag demo. Engineer humor. But you can see the areas where the display has died - the black pockmarks are a very typical result of excessive stress on OLED panels.