Next from Google: A flexible, unbreakable smartphone

Display technology is evolving fast and even companies known for innovation fear being left behind.

By Forbes Digital May 14, 2013 1:24PM

Google (GOOG) has innovation oozing out of every pore right now. In addition to driverless cars, NOW, Google Glass and Fiber, the company is investigating closely how it might make use of innovative OLED displays.

OLED is the technology in the Samsung Galaxy range of smartphones -- Nokia (NOK) also make use of it as do Motorola, among others.

The Samsung Galaxy S4, however, took the technology on a stage by incorporating a new phosphorescent green that substantially improved the display's performance. It made Samsung phones competitive on performance with the iPhone Retina.

But displays are already moving on, and as Google readies its Google X for market, the first Motorola Mobility phone co-developed with Google, the display has to have a surprise in store, or it may fall flat. Google has to keep up.

Motorola and Google have promised next-generation smartphones.

Google's CEO Larry Page was in South Korea two weeks ago where he spent part of this trip as a guest of Samsung Electronics. He also visited the OLED production lines as well as lunching with senior strategists, according to Korea Times.

The immediate reaction to the trip focused on a possible Google OLED TV. However, Samsung's OLED TVs look set to cost around $18,000, a price tag that would do nothing for Google unless it wanted to follow up its high end Chromebooks with Apple-challenging (AAPL) home products.

Far more likely, Page was interested in the Youm unbreakable, plastic, flexible display.

It's now expected that Samsung will launch the display commercially with the Note 3 in Q4 of this year. There are still doubts around how easily Samsung can ramp up production for the Youm but the race is on for significant display innovations in 2013. Plastic, flexible and unbreakable is it.

It looks as though America's tech giants are beginning to wake up to the significant developments in display technology, with Amazon (AMZN) announcing Monday the purchase of Liquavista (a Dutch display company).

Apple now faces tough decisions on where it takes its display technology, having virtually ruled out OLED for the iPhone, though Apple has been hiring OLED specialists. Apple has been patenting AMOLED displays and Google has been patenting OLED technology, including touchscreen and battery saving inventions.

If the first Google-Motorola phone does not carry some kind of display innovation this year, Google's Motorola partnership is going to look very slow. It will be hard to reconcile Google's current pace of innovation with their involvement in a smartphone that doesn't contain some hardware surprises. If it's not flexible, plastic and unbreakable, it's history.

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