I saw the foldable future in Samsung’s wild display prototypes

Although plenty of CES announcements cover gadgets that you’ll be able to buy in the near future, it’s also a chance to get a glimpse at what could be coming down the pike years from now. And personally, if we’re talking prototypes, there’s no company more exciting than Samsung Display. These sorts of early experiments are how the entire foldable category got its start, after all, and checking out whatever the company has in the works can give us a glimpse of what future Galaxy smartphones might look like.


Though plenty of these prototypes were fascinating, one rose above the rest to truly catch my attention. Dubbed the Flex In & Out Flip, seeing this display in action felt like getting an unauthorized look at what a future generation of the Galaxy Z Flip could look like. Unfolded, this concept phone looks indistinguishable from the Galaxy Z Flip 5 — with the sole exception of its large bezels, of course. The biggest difference, though, comes down to its 360 hinge. Samsung’s screen doesn’t stop bending when you’ve unfolded the phone; rather, it’s capable of wrapping back around itself to place half of the panel on each side of the screen.

While this tech is essentially a successor to a similar panel the company showed off last year in a Z Fold-esque layout, I think the possibilities of this tech in a smaller form factor are a little more exciting. You could effectively have a double-sided cover screen when the device is completely closed, without having to deal with camera cutouts like on current flip phones. It’s not likely something you’d want to keep in your pocket, of course — that soft plastic display likely wouldn’t hold up in daily use — but on a desk during the work day, it’s easy to imagine this as a better, larger Flex Window.

This particular prototype didn’t have its own external display, but it’s easy to imagine a future Z Flip using this technology would pair the two together, giving you the best of both worlds no matter which way you closed the phone. While your guess is as good as mine on whether something like this will ever actually make its way to store shelves, it seems like a natural evolution of the foldable displays Samsung is already using on devices like the Z Flip 5.

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That was, in my opinion, the most exciting — and most likely to hit market — concept shown in Samsung Display’s lineup, but it was far from the only screen that could end up in future Android phones. One panel — the Flip Liple, a name that combines “light” and “simple” into one of the most awkward portmanteaus I’ve ever seen — struck me as something LG would’ve introduced had it not bailed out of the mobile scene in 2021. It looks like a fairly standard foldable, but adds a sliver-sized display along the top of the device’s body to display incoming notifications, the current time, and other information when closed. I’m not sure it’s any better than current cover screens, but I admire its silliness all the same.

Samsung also showed off the usual slate of expandable, rollable displays, typically in tablet forms. These weren’t as exciting as its Flip-sized prototypes — in fact, the rollable demo wasn’t even functioning during my appointment — but it’s great to see work continuing on larger format foldables for tablets and beyond. I also spotted earbud cases with built-in OLED displays, complete with record player animations for tracks actively playing. Built-in displays aren’t a new idea when it comes to Bluetooth headphones, but it’s great to see Samsung Display working on its own screens for these gadgets.

Notably missing from this year’s lineup: anything sized to fit the Galaxy Z Fold series. We’ve seen plenty of panels potentially for future Folds in the past, so it’s unclear whether this is worth reading into. Could this be because previous iterations of prototype panels are ready to make their way into commercial products, or could Samsung Display simply be prioritizing larger and smaller panels this year? Considering the Galaxy Z Fold series is in need of a revitalization in 2024, maybe we’ll truly be surprised at Samsung’s fold-centric Unpacked come summertime.

Whether or not these products ever make it to market, it’s great to see Samsung Display still working on fresh ideas. It’s concepts like these — not to mention fully functioning prototypes, like Motorola’s Rizr model from MWC last year — that make an otherwise stale field of Android phones feel a little more exciting.

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