Smartphone form factor has gone through multiple evolutions over the years. We have witnessed some iconic standout designs from the likes of Apple, Samsung, Nokia, Blackberry and LG. The launch of iPhone made touchscreen the preferred mode of input and it seemed the designers of all brands had settled on the most efficient ‘bar’ form factor of smartphones. At least until the advent of foldable devices.
LG, in its official blog post on September 2, announced a new Explorer Project which it claimed was going to “deliver much-needed curiosity and excitement to the mobile sector”. Keeping up with the promise, on September 14, LG unveiled the Wing model with a never-seen-before dual-screen swivel design. This 90-degree swivel design presents to you an entirely new way of using a phone. Now, you can multitask with two apps on two screens simultaneously, use apps horizontally and vertically, and conveniently use the horizontal screen for vlogging while holding the phone in portrait mode. Even without the unique swivel, it is a modern phone on all counts — it is 5G-enabled, has a gimbal motion camera, a pop-up camera and a tall 21:9 OLED Display.
Smartphone Form-Factor: Evolution
Why do we need newer form factors?
The form factor of any device follows the usage patterns of its end-user. With the consumers’ appetite for display increasing, screen sizes are getting bigger and bezels are getting smaller. The share of smartphones with a display of more than 6″ has grown from a mere 12% in Q2 2018 to 79% in Q2 2020. In fact, we have reached a point where we can’t increase the size of the phone further without hindering the one-hand usage. Such a situation is leading us to foldable devices with flexible OLEDs where you can keep the phone small and still get a big screen. Foldable devices have been increasing in popularity and now we have the LG Wing, providing an entirely new ‘twist’ to foldable phone design!
How did LG pull this off?
LG is no stranger to dual-screen devices, with its V50 already retailing with a dual-screen. But making the Wing was different. LG had to develop an ‘ultra-compact hinge’ which allowed it to connect the two displays. It also used a dual spring, dual lock, and a hydraulic damper mechanism to make the phone swivel smoothly for 200,000 times in its life. The fact that LG is a vertically-integrated company, which has in-house capabilities for displays, cameras, and components, helped a lot. The availability of this expertise at hand certainly gives it the advantage to pursue newer form factors.
The arrival of new form factors is always noted down in bold letters but their success and adoption depend on a number of factors. The most important factors are accepted by consumers, channel feedback, and easy availability of inexpensive technology for OEMs. For the Wing and its swivel design, it is too early to give a verdict – price and availability date are yet to be announced. The distribution reach here is limited to a few countries in North America, Europe, and Asia. LG Wing’s direct competition will come from Galaxy Fold which is into its second generation. The LG Wing’s shipment numbers may not reach the heights achieved by Fold, but what is certain is that this model will put the spotlight back on LG.
The inflection point of moving away from the ‘bar’ form factor is still far away as the mass adoption of newer form factors like the Fold and Wing is yet to take off. But the transition has started and it is an exciting time to be in.