LG’s new foldable display tech could mean big trouble for Samsung

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Last updated: September 8th, 2021 at 10:48 UTC+02:00

LG may not be competing in the smartphone market anymore but like Samsung, it has other divisions that produce key components for mobile devices. LG Chem has announced a new foldable display material that it claims to be superior to existing glass-type materials, the kind that Samsung uses.

The company claims that its new foldable display coating is able to make the panels as hard as glass while retaining the flexibility of plastic. It even says that the crease on the foldable panel won’t be as noticeable as it is on existing materials.

LG is coming after Samsung’s lead in foldable displays

The Ultra-Thin Glass panels that Samsung uses for the Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Galaxy Z Flip 3 are protected with a stretchable PET or plastic film. Samsung does say that it’s 80% tougher than the previous model.

LG is calling its new material ‘Real Folding Window.” It doesn’t rely on glass at all. This new material is a coating that’s only a few dozen micrometres thick. It’s applied to both sides of a PET film to improve its heat resistance and mechanical properties.

The PET film, which is thinner than existing glass solutions like Samsung’s UTG, is then able to achieve the same level of hardness without cracking on the screen and a less prominent crease. LG Chem says that the coated film is durable to withstand being folded over 200,000 times. That’s also the benchmark Samsung uses for its foldable panels.

This film will be the cover material that’s applied to a flexible OLED panel. LG says it’s going to be more competitive on price and suitable for a variety of devices including smartphones, tablets, laptops and rollable display phones.

The company points out that while existing cover materials are optimized for in-folding devices, like Samsung’s foldables, the Real Folding Window is also suitable for devices that fold outward.

It’s going to be a while before this new display technology hits the market. The company says it plans to start full-scale production in 2023. LG Chem is even working on new technologies that would enable it to produce a thin Real Folding Window with just the coating alone without requiring the PET film.

This is going to be a challenge for Samsung as the company wants to ramp up production of its foldable panels to supply other manufacturers who want to make foldable smartphones. Google is expected to be one of Samsung’s clients.

A cheaper and potentially easier to manufacture alternative from LG would threaten the advantage Samsung has gained so far. It would also push the company to compete on price. Consumers would win in the end, though, as this will help bring down the price of foldable smartphones in the future.

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