A Chinese startup company could be the first to produce bendable smartphones, in a move that would see it upstage Korean-based electronics giant Samsung.
Moxi Group, a small company based in Chongqing, is targeting shipments of 100,000 of its new devices this year.
The phones will sell for somewhere in the region of CNY5,000 (AUD1,000) and are designed to be rolled into a bracelet and worn on the wrist. The device can be unfurled into a rectangular shape to be used like a regular smartphone and the touchscreen will still work when curled up.
With the initial release, the bendable smartphones will only feature a black-and-white screen, but a colour version is already in the pipeline for a future release.
Executive vice-president of Moxi Chongsheng Yu told Bloomberg: “Black and white phones are much easier to make.” Indeed, the release could give his company the accolade of being the first to make the new technology commercially available.
“The colour model power usage is also much higher than that of the black and white unit. We'll sell in China and if there's demand overseas, we'll look into it,” Mr Yu commented.
He added that the screen is based on e-ink, which is also used on a wide range of e-readers. However, the better touchscreen capability is integrated into the smartphone, making it superior to these devices.
Roel Vertegaal, director of the Human Media Lab at Queen's University in Canada, which demonstrated another prototype of a bendable phone five years ago, expressed reservations with this decision.
“If they're using flexible e-ink then it's a real loser,” he commented. “It was the only flexible technology we could get, but the colours are poor, the contrasts are poor and you can't play videos on it.”
In terms of the hardware, the screen uses graphene technology, which sees carbon atoms arranged in a pattern that makes them more conductive and resilient. The battery, processor and other components are situated in one end of the gadget, instead of being behind the flexible screen. This is what makes it possible for the display to be bent almost into a full circle.
Aravind Vijayaraghavan, a graphene researcher based at Manchester University in the UK, said that if the company does succeed in releasing a working, bendable phone, then it could be tapping into a huge market.
“If they're going to release it commercially this year I'd be thoroughly impressed,” he remarked. “If you have a low-resolution black and white screen that is not terribly reliable, then that's not a commercial prospect.”