Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. (LON:BC94) (KRX:005930) let analysts take a peek at flexible smartphones and tablets at its first Analyst Day in eight years. The company has already hinted that flexible smartphones could be unveiled in 2015, and smartphones with curved displays have already been showcased, but showing prototypes to analysts (who were barred from taking pictures) shows that the company is confident that it can have them ready a year from now.

samsung flexible phone

Samsung’s competitive advantage

“Our conversations suggest Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. (LON:BC94) (KRX:005930)’s OLED + Plastics based flexible display technology is ready for production, and would further expand Samsung’s competitive advantage in premium Smartphones,” wrote Jefferies analyst Sundeep Bajikar.

A flexible smartphone should be more durable than a phone with a rigid glass display, but there are lots of non-trivial problems that have to be solved to make it work: the display has to be as transparent as glass, internal components also need to be flexible, and touch display (which uses capacitance to determine where you’re touching) has to be just as responsive. If the prototypes that analysts got to play with really were ready for production, we wouldn’t have to wait another year for an announcement, let alone to get our hands on one. It’s more likely that major problems have been dealt with, and whatever remaining issues exist aren’t likely to come up in a controlled environment (extreme temperatures and stress come to mind).

Advantages of flexible tablets

Once tablets are thin enough and flexible enough to fold like a thick sheet of paper, all manner of new applications become possible. Anyone who misses rolling up their newspaper and tucking it under one arm may find technology comes back around in a few years.

Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. (LON:BC94) (KRX:005930) also used the exhibition to highlight its leadership in 14nm foundry, and Bajikar said that he thinks Samsung is already sampling a 24-layer V-NAND to its customers, with a second generation coming out soon. Bajikar rates Samsung as a Buy, even though “investors might be disappointed with Samsung’s near-term cash return plans, primarily because we think investors do not fully appreciate the disruptive and transformative investment opportunities in front of the company, for example in leading-edge foundry, due to Moore Stress.”