Thursday, April 24, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Can smartphones snap out of technological stupor?

Future Smartphones

FILE - In this Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013, file photo, a visitor touches LG Electronics' smartphone G Flex displayed during a media event at its head office in Seoul, South Korea. In a foreshadowing of things to come, LG Electronics Inc. is boasting about the G Flex, a new phone with a curved display. Already available in Korea and Singapore, sales of the concave device expand to Hong Kong on Friday, Dec. 13, 2013. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

SAN FRANCISCO — This may be remembered as the year smartphones became boring.

Although high-definition displays on smartphones have gotten bigger and their cameras have gotten better, the pace of gee-whiz innovation has dawdled.

Smartphone and software makers are working on ways to snap out of this technological lull, although it probably will be at least another year or two before breakthroughs revolutionize the design and function of mobile computing devices.

In a foreshadowing of things to come, LG Electronics Inc. is boasting about the G Flex, a new phone with a curved display. Previously available in Korea and Singapore, the concave device arrived in Hong Kong on Friday.

“We want to claim this as the future of smart devices,” Ramchan Woo, the head of LG’s mobile product planning division, said during a recent demonstration in San Francisco.

If such visions are realized, smartphones and tablets will be equipped with display screens that can be rolled up like a scroll or folded like a wallet.

Making the devices even easier to carry around will be important if software makers want to deepen the bond between people and their phones. That could happen as smarter tracking tools and voice-recognition technology let smartphones understand habits and thoughts like a family member.

The future smartphone ”will be small enough to carry with you at all times without thinking about it, and it will be essential enough that you won’t want to get rid of it,” Silicon Valley futurist Paul Saffo said. “It will become a context engine. It will be aware of where it is, where you are going and what you need.”

The G Flex provides a peek at the shape of things to come. Despite its name, the G Flex isn’t pliable. The device is slightly bowed from top to bottom, allowing it to curve toward a person’s mouth when used for phone calls. It also has a curved battery, something LG says is a first for smartphones. LG applied a “self-healing” protective coat on the G Flex to automatically repair any minor scratches.

More than anything, the G Flex is meant to begin the smartphone’s evolution from the primitive state of flat screens. In theory, the curved-screen technology will lead to bendable screens, which will then pave the way to foldable screens. If that progression plays out, it would be possible to fold a larger smartphone so it can easily fit into a pocket.

For now, though, the G Flex’s size makes it too cumbersome for most people to lug around. It has a six-inch screen, measured diagonally, making it among the largest phones out there. The cost also will limit its appeal. LG introduced the G Flex in its home country of South Korea last month for $940. LG wants to sell the G Flex in the U.S., but hasn’t set a date or price or reached distribution deals with any wireless carriers.

Another Korean company, Samsung Electronics Inc., also is selling a concave smartphone there. Unlike the G Flex’s vertical bow, Samsung’s Galaxy Round curves horizontally from left to right when it’s held upright. With a price tag of about $1,000, the phone is more an expensive novelty than a mainstream product.

Like LG, Samsung is setting the stage for bigger things to come. Samsung Vice Chairman Kwon Oh-hyun told analysts last month that the company believes it can produce a mobile device with a foldable display by 2015.

Samsung appears to be working on two slightly different concepts, according to two analysts who saw prototypes of what’s in the company’s product pipeline during last month’s meetings. Reporters weren’t given a chance to see the prototypes. One featured a tablet-sized display panel that could be folded in half in the screen’s midsection, according to the analysts. The display was thin and could be folded in only one direction. The rest of the panel was firm and flat, the analysts said. Another version had a more flexible screen capable of bending anywhere.

An Apple Inc. blueprint for making a device with a curved display was granted a U.S. patent this week, a development likely to feed recent speculation that the iPhone maker is working on a concave model. The Cupertino, Calif., company declined to comment.

Other device makers may show off products with curved screens in Las Vegas next month at CES, where tech companies often unveil their latest innovations.

Building smartphones with more pliable screens will pose several challenges for manufacturers. The battery,smartphone chips and other key components will have to become flexible, too, so they can bend with the device. Flexible screens also will probably be made of plastic, a material more likely to degrade or fail when exposed to high temperatures, oxygen or water.

The push to turn smartphones into more intelligent devices appears to be further along than the attempts to transform the display screens.

Both Apple and Google Inc., the maker of the Android operating system and the world’s dominant search engine, already offer voice recognition technology and virtual assistants that enable smartphones to engage in rudimentary conversations and offer helpful tips. The ultimate goal is for smartphones to become so intuitive and efficient that they reflexively cater to their owners’ needs.

“You’ll be speaking to the phone, asking it to do things, and it will be responding and actually doing what you intend,” said Dennis Woodside, CEO of Google’s device-making subsidiary, Motorola Mobility.

The technological advances could border on the supernatural, according to IDC analyst Ramon Llamas. He expects the future relationship between people and their phones to be akin to fictional billionaire Tony Stark’s connection with the computer-controlled armor that he dons to become Iron Man, a comic-book hero popularized in a trilogy of movies starring Robert Downey Jr.

If Llamas is right, future smartphones will become a person’s navigator, security blanket, counselor and talisman. Without a smartphone to come to the rescue, a person may even feel reduced to being a mere mortal.

___

Lee reported from Seoul, South Korea.

___

Online:

LG’s G Flex: http://www.lg.com/us/mobile-phones/innovations

Samsung’s Galaxy Round (in Korean): http://www.samsung.com/sec/galaxyround

Round info on Amazon: http://amzn.to/IPQcUr

Apple’s patent for a curved display: http://1.usa.gov/19Ce2Kr

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

.

Solano News

 
Congressman talks Travis, water

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A1, 4 Comments | Gallery

Travis lines up 2 days of aviation excellence

By Ian Thompson | From Page: A1, 1 Comment | Gallery

 
Appreciate how good we have it now

By Angela Borchert | From Page: A2

 
 
Dixon May Fair has deals on advance tickets

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3

 
Garamendi talks love, pro football and Peace Corps

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A3, 4 Comments | Gallery

 
Author to sign books at Vacaville Museum

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3

Kroc Center women schedule inaugural Taster Tea

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3

 
Docents to lead paddling tour in marsh

By Adrienne Harris | From Page: A4

Juneteenth committee extends vendors, exhibitors deadline

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A4

 
Congressional Art Competition is back

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

 
Spilled tomato juice case set for trial

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A4, 5 Comments

Theme park welcomes seal pup

By Adrienne Harris | From Page: A4

 
 
Suisun City police log: April 22, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

 
Suisun City police log: April 21, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

Fairfield police log: April 21, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

 
Weather for Thursday, April 24, 2014

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B12

Fairfield police log: April 22, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

 
.

US / World

Syrian activists accuse Assad of new gas attacks

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
Murder charge for Vallejo man in head-on crash

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 1 Comment

California bill reignites affirmative action fight

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 3 Comments

 
Andy Lopez protest leads to school campus lockdown

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 3 Comments

Navy Cross bestowed on heroic Marine

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 1 Comment

 
Airport official: Teen had no clue he was in Maui

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

US weighs clemency for inmates jailed for 10 years

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6, 1 Comment

 
Gun carry rights expanded in Ga. under new law

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6, 4 Comments

First lady announces one-stop job site for vets

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6, 2 Comments

 
Rail safety effort marred by squabbling

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6, 1 Comment

Small Wyoming town evacuated after gas explosion

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
Bashtag: NYPD Twitter campaign backfires

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6, 1 Comment

Soldier convicted in WikiLeaks case gets new name

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
Lawyer: US man held in Cuba seeks to go home soon

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10, 1 Comment

Captain who left doomed ferry had 40 years at sea

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Russian social media CEO quits, flees country

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Amid Russia warning, Ukraine is in a security bind

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10, 1 Comment

 
Palestinian rivals to try again for unity deal

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

Camilla’s brother dies in US after head injury

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
State senators get ethics training after scandals

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12, 7 Comments

.

Opinion

Question of the week: Will Flight 370 be found?

By Daily Republic | From Page: A11

 
Be the first and give specifics

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A11, 2 Comments

What we can do about crime

By Kelvin Wade | From Page: A11, 14 Comments

 
Castro at odds with mentor on deportations

By Ruben Navarrette | From Page: A11

Some Earth Day boos and cheers

By Jay Ambrose | From Page: A11

 
.

Living

Today in History for April 24, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Community Calendar: April 24, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

When Joe’s mad at me, he also ignores my 7-year-old son

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: A9

 
Horoscopes for April 24, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: A9

.

Entertainment

TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Jodie Foster weds artist Alexandra Hedison

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

Singer Chris Brown’s DC trial delayed for months

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
Performing dogs go big after $1 million TV prize

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

Amazon snares classic shows in deal with HBO

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
.

Sports

Mustangs swim to sweep of Indians

By Marcus Lomtong | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Warriors, Clippers to meet in Oakland for Game 3

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Sharks confident with chance to sweep LA Kings

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Girls soccer update: Armijo, Vanden on way to playoffs

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B1 | Gallery

A’s reject 10-year Coliseum lease offer

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Prep softball: Vanden rolls to 14-0 win over Fairfield

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B2

 
Prep badminton: Unbeaten Mustangs cruise past Crushers

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B2

Prep boys golf: Vikings suffer SCAC loss to Panthers

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B2

 
Sanchez’s slam in 11th helps Giants beat Rox 12-10

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

Prep track: Armijo girls get win in MEL 4-way meet

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B2

 
Perez helps Rangers sweep A’s with 3-0 win

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

Party a century in the making for Wrigley Field

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Emmert supports more efficient, effective NCAA

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

Phelps having fun in his return to swimming

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3 | Gallery

 
Suns’ Dragic honored as NBA’s Most Improved Player

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

Seahawks to open NFL season vs. Packers

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
Oldest living ex-MLB player dies in Cuba at 102

By The Associated Press | From Page: B12

 
.

Business

Wellness programs grow more popular with employers

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

 
Sales of new US homes plunge 14.5 percent in March

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

Buffett disapproves of Coca-Cola’s pay plan

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

 
Amazon snares classic shows in deal with HBO

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

US stocks edge lower after a six-day rise

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

 
Facebook 1Q results soar; CFO to step down

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

Apple increases stock buyback, will split stock

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6, 1 Comment

 
.

Obituaries

Phyllis J. Miller

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Dondi Martin

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

.

Comics

Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Wizard Of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9