OK, you could probably make the case that we don’t need tablets right now, with smartphones, netbooks and other laptops filling most of our computing needs. But there’s no mistaking that the Apple iPad is selling like hotcakes, and virtually every PC maker is preparing to launch its own tablet soon.

But in a few years flexible display technology could make standalone tablets obsolete. Imagine being able to grab a 3 inch or smaller phone from your pocket to make a call — and then pull out a 5 inch display when you need to view a calendar, check your email, or surf the web.

Deigner Hank Chen has drafted some images of a concept device he calls the Flex Display phone, which has a 5 inch sliding screen that you can tuck away behind the keyboard. You could use the screen for a GPS display in a vehicle, or a space for viewing web pages, videosor what have you in phone or laptop mode.

You can find more concept images at The Design Blog.

I can certainly imagine technology making a device like this possible within the next few years. But I have to wonder whether PC and phone makers will want to develop a single device that can replace a phone, notebook, and tablet. I suppose they could always charge ridiculously high prices for these all-in-one portables.

via SlashGear

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9 replies on “Will smartphones of the future eliminate the need for tablets?”

  1. A smart phone will NOT replace the need/want for a tablet, namely due to screen size.

    The reason the iPad is so popular is because it’s basically a BIG iPhone. People like the simplicity of the device, yes, but the larger screen size is the market driver. There will always be people who don’t mind the smaller 3,4,5″ screens, but unless you can transform that 3.5″ display into a 9″ display, don’t count out the tablet factor.

    1. What you say is true but think about it in the conventional way? For example, if we have smartphones with screen size that can be rolled out into a 9inch display things could change.

      People never though that netbooks would be a thing people would accept but they did.I still feel that tablets might not succeed like in the past.

      1. Actually, that’s not true. Netbooks were popular before they were “netbooks”. Netbooks used to come in the disguise as “Ultra-portables” – these were full notebook computers that were very small, very portable, and very expensive. Given the price point (the most accessible version to the US market was probably the Sony Picturebook which sold for $2100), they were extrememly popular for the market (of course, they sold better in Japan). That was back when the “Power, Portability, and Price” rule still applied to laptops (it still does to a point, but not near as much). There was a market that drooled over these things but couldn’t afford them. It was almost a no-brainer to think that small, cheap, Windows-based machines would be popular (though traditional PC manufactures had to be dragged into the netbook market… it really cuts into Notebook sales). The big question with the original Netbooks is “Would the public accept Linux or a different OS”. The answer, obviously, was a resounding “No” (which manufactures SHOULD have learned from the Windows CE days… the only reason Windows CE ‘palmtops’ didn’t sell was because they ran Windows CE and not Windows 95/98).

        If Asus hadn’t “ruined” the market with the EeePC, companies would still be perpetuating the myth that a full Computer OS on a tiny system means big $$$ (and they would still have been successful in selling them).

        The real surprise with Netbooks is “would people pay for outdated hardware”. The assumption was that once a hardware generation passed, there was no consumer market for it (most extra ‘last-generation’ hardware went to vertical market applications). Traditional thinking would say “People will never pay for that small computer because it’s waaaayyyy too under-powered. It can’t play the current crop of video games so nobody will buy it.” What they didn’t expect was that most people didn’t care about that, as long as they could surf the web, read e-mail, and use Microsoft Office (and install their favorite Windows software).

        Tablets are another store. Just because the iPad is popular, doesn’t mean tablets will fly off the shelves. iPods are VERY popular, but other brands aren’t exactly burning up the market.

  2. An alternative to a flex display would be adjacent 0-bezel displays. Perhaps that is more feasible – we were supposed to get no bezel displays this summer.
    There is a conceptual issue about phones displacing tablets. Did phones displace PDA’s? I think it is more accurate to say that PDA’s with added phone capability are displacing pure cell phones. The ARM processor was a PDA processor long before it appeared in phones. The Dell Streak is billed as a tablet – with phone capability. The iPHone is an mini-tablet with phone capability. So one way of looking at the future is that phones get displaced by tablets, as tablets add phone functions.

  3. I think convergence at a low price in inevitable. I’m sure phone companies would love to sell you a phone, but computers makers don’t care if you buy a phone. In other words if someone makes a Swiss-army knife they won’t give a damn if scissor makers, toothpick makers, or corkscrew makers feel a pinch.

    I think pulling a bigger screen from a smaller device will somehow become possible with flexible screen in the future, but I’m guessing it will lag behind when we think that will be possible. Ironic, that in all likelihood we will have 3D HD screen on phones, netbooks, tablets and other devices long before we have flexible screens. In fact I think we are only three years away from all small devices with a screen having a 3D screen and 10 years away from small flexible screens that we pull out to give us bigger screens on tiny devices.
    The things that might be useful are far away
    – Better batteries…another decade
    – Skilled coders for multiprocessor programming..nine years
    – 3D printing affordable for common person in the home…eight years
    – Better low watt processors…another seven years
    – OLED screens in most portable devices…six years
    – Screens you can read in full sunlight on everything…five years

    1. You’re assuming people WANT 3D screens. All the market data tells us that “3D” (at least in it’s current form) is a fad. There is a such thing as “too much, too fast”.

      Manufactures are pushing 3D and buzzing it like crazy. Market data tells us that 3D is a fad, and one that consumers, for the most part, aren’t going for.

      As for the other stuff on your list, you’re pretty optomistic! What we CAN do and what consumers tell us they want are often two different things. There will always be early adaptors, but until a comany actually shows a USE for this stuff, it’s all in the “we can do it, but will people pay for it?” catagory.

      1. In it’s current implementation 3D is a fad. Will it always be a fad? Probably not. As to the rest of his list, he’s right all that stuff is coming… Will it come when he says… My gut tells me no on some, sooner on others. I love the makerbot project but I’m not sure everyone will have access to one within 8 years, whereas lower power processors should hit next year, and the year after, etc.

        I think his point was that we’re closer to having small energy efficent 3d screens than usable flexible screens, which is pretty accurate. There are no commercial flexible screens. There are advances that should make it possible before the end of the next decade… But that’s it. 3D screens are shipping, however we might feel about it.

        1. Maybe. It was easy to predict the current convergence/smartphone trend we have now, but the next trend is a little harder to spot. I seriously don’t think 3D is going to be a huge hit on mobile devices. Some manufacturer is probably already plotting a device, but I can guarentee it won’t be mainstream.

          As for Home 3D printers? I seriously doubt we’ll have HP (or Canon, etc.) 3D Printers in 8 years (or even ones that are anywhere near affordable for the ‘home’). True it’s made a lot of advances, but I still doubt it’s feasability for the mainstream home market. Hobbiests? Sure, but Mom and Dad? I doubt it.

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