A flexible iPhone, iPad and Kindle may be in your future

The one issue with e-readers and tablet computers that isn’t mentioned much, but matters a lot to me, is their durability. I’m hard on everything I own — and I read quite a bit online and offline. Most things I read aren’t things that I need to keep around forever. I love not having to worry that I’m going to break my latest issue of Wired or that I might drop my copy of The Fortune Cookie Chronicles as I read it while brushing my teeth in the morning.

ABOVE Corning’s imagining of a flexible glass substrate.

Flexible displays for e-readers, tablets and phones may be the answer. Roel Vertegaal, the director of the Queen’s University Human Media Lab in Kingston, Ontario, has invented a prototype for a paper phone. “This computer looks, feels and operates like a small sheet of interactive paper, meaning that when users are reading they don’t feel like they are holding a sheet of glass or metal,” he explains.

Vertegaal describes his smartphone prototype, called PaperPhone, as a flexible iPhone.  Through it’s graphic interface you can read books, play music or make phone calls. You  interact with the 9.5 cm thin film flexible E Ink display by tapping and bending. For now, the fascinating part of this cell phone is just the display. The battery, antennas and other circuitry for now exist in a device that’s about the size of, well, a cell phone. Vertegaal plans to unveil the phone next week on May 10th at the Association of Computing Machinery’s CHI 2011 (Computer Human Interaction) conference in Vancouver.


  1. James Gray
    May 6, 2011

    It’s cool that the technology works but I’m not sure it would really be an improvement over a basic touchscreen. Maybe in the right application.

    • May 6, 2011

      I think a lot depends on the UI. Vertegaal’s needs a lot of work based on this video — but the technology behind it could change not just how people read books, but how a doctor can interact with a patient or how a child could learn to read. Pretty cool stuff. What application would you most like to see?

  2. James Gray
    May 6, 2011

    That’s true, I think the technology is definitely interesting but I don’t see it as an improvement over something like the iPad. I see the strengths of something like this in it’s flexibility and durability. I suppose it’s possible, but I think the UI would always be limited in such a small device. I think something like this could become popular for more basic functions, maybe an inexpensive device to read the paper on rather than carrying your iPad around for instance.