Samsung receives UL certification for “unbreakable” phone display

Way back when, smartphones would see large performance increases year after year. Those kind of computing gains are now in society's collective rearview mirror, but handset makers keep pulling new tricks out of their hats in an effort to tempt customers. From a durability standpoint, water and dust intrusion resistance have become more widespread over the last couple of trips around the fireball in the sky.

However, shrinking bezels and ever-thinner chassis conspire to maintain screen breakage as a spectre to keep flagship phone owners up at night. Samsung isn't the only company whose engineers are toiling to produce flexible displays, but its “unbreakable” OLED panel is the first to be certified by Underwriters Laboratories. UL is an official test company for the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

The Korean manufacturer says the displays use a flexible OLED panel sandwiched between an “unbreakable” substrate and a overlay window. In comparison, most current smartphone screens are covered with some form of glass. Samsung wasn't specific about the nature of the substrate or the overlay, saying simply that the protective layer was “fortified plastic” with transmissivity and hardness “very similar to glass.” We suspect scratch resistance of this mystery material will be the subject of scrutiny once phones packing these displays reach the ever-clumsy public.

Samsung was more upfront about its shatter resistance testing, stating that the displays handled 26 successive tumbles from a height of 4' (1.2 m) without damage to its front or edges. The company says the durability characteristics are retained at temperatures from -32 to 71 degrees. The units were left out, but between Celsius, Fahrenheit, and Kelvin, only Celsius makes any sense with those numbers. The manufacturer says the screens also subsequently survived a drop from 6' (1.8 m) and kept on ticking.

The company didn't provide much other detail about its allegedly-unbreakable displays. The image Samsung provided suggests the technology can be applied to flagship-size phone screens, but it didn't mention the resolution, brightness, or color-reproduction capabilities of the displays. The company also didn't mention pricing or availability, but handing them over for third-party testing suggests the flex-y screens might not be too far in the future.

Comments closed
    • mikewinddale
    • 1 year ago

    It would be hilarious if it was 71 degrees Fahrenheit. Someone drops their phone 2 inches and the whole thing shatters into a million pieces. Samsung replies, “Oh, sorry, it’s not guaranteed at temperatures above ambient room temperature.”

      • blastdoor
      • 1 year ago

      Definitely Fahrenheit.

    • Chrispy_
    • 1 year ago

    We’ve had flexible displays for ages covered in glass, and based off the comments on the new Gorilla Glass 6 article, people are very resistant to plastic displays.

    Personally, I loved my plastic Droid Turbo 2. That thing was unbreakable!

      • liquidsquid
      • 1 year ago

      I did also. It got all scratched up and dented from being pressed against keys in my pocket though. The display behaved like a really hard gelatin more than a plastic.

        • Chrispy_
        • 1 year ago

        [quote=”liquidsquid”<]scratched up and dented from being pressed against keys in my pocket[/quote<] /facepalm Downvote me all you want but this is why we can't have nice things.

          • liquidsquid
          • 1 year ago

          Yeah, tell me about it. Then I went swimming with it in 15 feet of pond water to look for a lost anchor. Game over.

          Crap gets crammed in my pockets on outdoor projects. Either keys, nails, screws, dirt, wood chips, dog fur, treats, you name it. I’m a busy guy and cannot be troubled with keeping my phone display all shiny.

            • Chrispy_
            • 1 year ago

            Yeah, my ‘invincible’ Moto X Force (EU version of the Droid 2 Turbo) died because I got unexpectedly soaking wet.

            For all its great build and drop-tolerance, they forgot to make it rain-proof.

    • Puiucs
    • 1 year ago

    “between Celsius, Fahrenheit, and Kelvin, only Celsius makes any sense. ” – corrected that for you.

      • JustAnEngineer
      • 1 year ago

      You left out Rankine.

    • GrimDanfango
    • 1 year ago

    Right, they’re really going to market a plastic screen as some huge advancement?

    What the hell does a flexible panel have to do with anything unless they’ve also made flexible circuit-board, flexible integrated circuits and flexible batteries?

      • strangerguy
      • 1 year ago

      Consumer products are so boring to watch now, it’s overpriced gimmick after gimmick, and the rare exciting things are only so because of their low prices than real innovation or fulfilling a real need.

      • cygnus1
      • 1 year ago

      I think they’re implying they don’t need a hard piece of glass on top to protect the screen itself from drops. Today you drop a phone and the glass breaks, not the underlying screen. With this, you don’t need the glass because the screen itself can bend/deform thus making impacts less damaging to the actual display.

    • ronch
    • 1 year ago

    Perfect for those hotheads.

    • albundy
    • 1 year ago

    unbreakable eh? challenge accepted, Mr. Glass! rail gun charging in 3…2…1…

    • sweatshopking
    • 1 year ago

    Phones with plastic instead of glass exist, including some by Samsung. They just scratch like a bastard.

      • Laykun
      • 1 year ago

      Just slap a glass screen protector on it, easy 😉

    • Wirko
    • 1 year ago

    Fun fact unknown to Samsung: Underwriters Laboratories does not exist. The artist formerly known as Underwriters Laboratories is now called just [url=https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UL_(safety_organization)<]UL[/url<].

      • jihadjoe
      • 1 year ago

      Underwriters Laboratories does still exist, they just made a new subsidiary called UL LLC.

      [url<]http://pbadupws.nrc.gov/docs/ML1134/ML113460925.pdf[/url<] [quote<]Certain United States legal entities in the UL Family of Companies will be undergoing change as of the end of 2011. Underwriters Laboratories Inc. will remain a not-for-profit, 501 c 3 legal entity and will remain the top level parent company in the UL Family of Companies. A new subsidiary of Underwriters Laboratories Inc. has been formed and is named "UL LLC" - a limited liability company. UL LLC, and nearly all other subsidiaries, will continue to be owned directly or indirectly by Underwriters Laboratories Inc. As of 1 January 2012, Underwriters Laboratories Inc. will transfer the staff, management, facilities, equipment, processes, procedures, information, intellectual property, etc. used to fulfill [accreditation] requirements to UL LLC.[/quote<]

        • Wirko
        • 1 year ago

        You’re right, and it’s even funnier than I thought.
        – Underwriters Laboratories Inc. is the owner, is commonly abbreviated as UL, and has no website
        – UL LLC is the worker, has a website, and the website tries so hard to hide the fact that another UL exists.
        Is that correct? Which one has issued the certificate mentioned above to Samsung?

    • Redocbew
    • 1 year ago

    [quote<]"unbreakable" phone display[/quote<] Challenge accepted.

      • bthylafh
      • 1 year ago

      Apple will license it and use its extra strength to make the iPhone thinner and just as breakable.

    • DPete27
    • 1 year ago

    As far as I’m concerned, making the display flexible is/was the easy part. Making the rest of the phone flexible is much more challenging.

    Why invent a flexible screen just for durability when all you had to do was copy the Droid Turbo 2 screen and make the phone thick enough to be comfortably held in the hand without a case while allowing for 2x larger battery.

    Also, I think phone manufacturers are conspiring to make their screens/phones too large to fit in the average front jean pocket so that people are forced to keep their phone in the back pocket where they’re likely to sit on it and/or have to continually remove the phone from their pocket when the sit at the hazard of dropping the device each time the phone is taken out of one’s pocket. Either way, we’re certainly past the balancing point of ergonomics vs screen real estate.

      • psuedonymous
      • 1 year ago

      [quote<]aking the rest of the phone flexible is much more challenging.[/quote<]LG G-Flex. Flexible phone (including board and battery), but the POLED panel was pretty execrable.

        • DPete27
        • 1 year ago

        I forgot about the GFlex. But that phone was curved, not bendable, right?

          • psuedonymous
          • 1 year ago

          Nope, bendability was one of its marketing points, and at the very least it could be ‘flattened’ from its curved state without damage.

      • Chrispy_
      • 1 year ago

      Multi-cell batteries where each cell is segmented would allow a phone to bend significantly more than current designs.

      Likewise with the PCBs joined by ribbon cables. Most phones are already made from multiple smaller boards and ribbon cables anyway, the trick is to just shape them to match the bend direction.

        • ArdWar
        • 1 year ago

        Why need ribbon cables? Flexible PCB already exist for decades already. Now instead of just used as connector you can also solder some components directly at it too. With small enough chips, the whole board can be reasonably bendy. Problem are that flex PCB now mostly limited to two layer (although adding a couple more shouldn’t be a big problem), lower reliability, and silicon die is still rigid and getting bigger with the need of more transistors and storage capacity.

        Still not sure if there’s commercially available flexible battery that’s both safe, cheap and have high energy density.

          • Chrispy_
          • 1 year ago

          Because although you can get flexible PCB the components soldered onto it are to big to flex. Board flex is the main reason for phone electronics failure.

          I’m not aware of a flexible battery either, so since that must be segmented you might as well just match the PCB segments to the battery segments.

      • liquidsquid
      • 1 year ago

      Of note, the thing that shatters most displays is a metal case being somewhat bent by various factors putting a lot of stress on a display. If bent, it doesn’t take much of a drop at all to blow the display. I am sure you have seen this occur, where a simple low drop causes the entire display to spiderweb.

      This will remove this weakness, but I don’t think the intention is to have the whole phone be flexible, but only allow the whole phone to have minor amounts of flex without any damage. Carbon fiber anyone?

      • derFunkenstein
      • 1 year ago

      I don’t think it matters if the rest of the phone is bendable. The key here is getting a display that can take some pressure without shattering. It’s more about dropped devices than bendy phones, IMIO.

    • DPete27
    • 1 year ago

    Rumor has it the Galaxy S10 will have this tech.

    • blastdoor
    • 1 year ago

    This is the most blatant case of false advertising since my suit against the movie The Neverending Story

    • derFunkenstein
    • 1 year ago

    I bet I could kill a few pixels if I tried.

    • Kretschmer
    • 1 year ago

    Mankind will always build a better idiot, Samsung.

      • Redocbew
      • 1 year ago

      Glad to see they learned so much from the Note 7.

      Hey guize, we just got the report back. The phone explodes because we made it too thin. What’s next?

      Hmm… a bendable screen! We should encourage phones to get bent!

      • Wirko
      • 1 year ago

      Is this still true in the era of AI?

        • EndlessWaves
        • 1 year ago

        Doubly so, now the human doesn’t even have to be involved for the phone to get driven over by a car.

      • ClickClick5
      • 1 year ago

      The Barrett 82A1 agrees.

      Hope that warrenty is air tight!

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This