The week in gadgets: LG’s roll-up display, BlackBerry Passport and new gadget releases

14 Jul 2014

A flexible 18-inch OLED panel from LG Display

A look at gadget happenings, as LG reveals a fully flexible display, BlackBerry attempts to shake up smartphone design with a square device, and LG, Sony and Samsung bring new products to the Irish market.

LG’s flexible, rollable display

LG Display cemented its reputation as the leader in display technologies last week with the unveiling of an 18-inch flexible OLED panel.

All near-1m megapixels of this bendy HD display panel can be rolled up to a radius of 3cm without affecting its function. This has been achieved by using a high-molecular substance-based polyimide film as the backplane of the panel, as opposed to the conventional plastic. The material switch also helped reduce the panel’s thickness while improving flexibility.

LG also demonstrated an an 18-inch transparent OLED panel, which boasts 30pc transmittance thanks to the South Korean manufacturer’s transparent pixel design technology. This is a significant improvement on the current technology, as transmittance of existing LCD panels is around 10pc.

LG transparent OLED display

As it continues to improve these technologies, LG Display forecasts that it will have developed an Ultra-HD flexible and transparent OLED panel of more than 60 inches with transmittance of more than 40pc and an even smaller curvature radius by 2017. So, get ready to welcome a see-through roll-up TV to your home around that time.

BlackBerry thinks it’s hip to be square

Coming this autumn, BlackBerry’s latest device is a square smartphone called the Passport. The enterprise-focused smartphone-makers have received some criticism for the unconventional shape of its 4.5-inch full-HD (1,440p squared) display, but BlackBerry maintains that it’s ideal for reading detailed documents on the go, such as medical charts, spreadsheets, e-books or even webpages.  

BlackBerry Passport between iPhone 5s and Samsung Galaxy S5

The BlackBerry Passport certainly stands out among its competition from Apple and Samsung

With a perfect 1:1 aspect ratio, the Passport eschews the entertainment-driven design of widescreen-format smartphones, meaning users won’t ever need to rotate their device for a better view.

The physical keyboard has also been optimised with a simple three-row layout containing keys solely for the alphabet, backspace and return. A virtual fourth row of keys will appear on-screen and adjust depending on the context. So, for example, the @ symbol will appear where you would typically write an email address. The keyboard is also touch-enabled so that users can navigate pages, apps and emails by lightly brushing their fingers over the keys.

Whether or not this phone can fit in a standard pocket remains to be seen, but, considering the unwieldy size of the flagship Android smartphones currently on the market and the rising popularity of phablets, I’m not sure that’s what matters.

New products on the market

Last Wednesday, Samsung released its new Galaxy Tab S – it’s thinnest and lightest tablet to date – to the Irish market. This tablet is meant to provide the best visual whatever you’re doing and wherever you’re doing it thanks to an adaptive Super AMOLED display, while users will also benefit from enhanced features for productivity and entertainment, and longer-lasting battery life in either a 10.5-inch or 8.4-inch package.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 inch white

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S is available in two sizes: 10.5-inch (left) and 8.4-inch

On the smartphone market, Sony’s Xperia M2 was also released in Ireland last week. Laying its claim as the slimmest 4G smartphone in its class, the Xperia M2 applies Sony’s signature OmniBalance design to a mid-range smartphone with an 8MP camera and 4.8-inch qHD display.

First unveiled at Mobile World Congress in Feburary, the Xperia M2 also features a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor with 1.2GHz quad-core CPUs and 2,300mAh battery – specs that show you how far the mid-range market has come. It’s available from €229 in black, white and purple options.

Sony Xperia M2

Sony’s Xperia M2: a high-spec mid-range smartphone

Also in stock last week for €199 apiece were the first Android Wear smartwatches from LG and Samsung. Debuted at Google I/O, LG’s G Watch and Samsung’s Gear Live were both thoroughly examined by gadget repairs website iFixit, who found both devices to be remarkably repairable with scores of nine and eight out of 10, respectively.

LG G Watch teardown by iFixit

LG’s G Watch, disassembled by the iFixit team

However, for the iFixit experts, the G Watch just snakes it for a higher recommendation on the back of being likely to last an extra year or two and having slightly better battery power.

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Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.