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Summary:

A research firm predicts that while there will be more money in flexible displays, consumers will likely have to wait until 2016 to get their hands on a truly flexible product.

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Ahead of the Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch reveal September 4, the big disappointment was the revelation the watch will not have a flexible display.

However, research firm IHS thinks the flexible display is about to become much more common. A report released today forecasts that global market revenue for flexible OLEDs will increase from $21.9 million in 2013 to $94.8 million in 2014 and will rise to nearly $12 billion by 2020.

OLED displays market forecast

OLEDs, or organic light-emitting diodes, are thin, transparent films commonly used in computers and TVs. Non-flexible OLED screens are already used in the Motorola Moto X, Samsung Galaxy S4 and Nokia Lumia 1020. They are a direct competitor to liquid-crystal and e-ink displays.

While Samsung won’t be debuting a smartwatch with a flexible display, they are expected to incorporate them into other devices by the end of this year. IHS said it is unlikely the first generation device’s screen will actually be bendable or rollable by users. Instead, we’ll have to wait until after 2016 to bend our electronics.

“A wide range of complementary technologies are under development to accelerate the advancement of flexible displays,” IHS mobile and emerging displays and technology director Vinita Jakhanwal said in a release. “The success of the flexible OLED market will ultimately be determined by the maturity of the materials and manufacturing processes that will enable large-volume production at reasonable costs.”

While tech history is littered with analyst projections about the future size of certain markets, there are a lot of reasons to believe that wearable and flexible devices are on the cusp of breaking through. From wildly popular smartwatch Kickstarter campaigns to rumored bendable e-ink displays, it’s already a fast-changing market that will move even faster over the next few years.

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  1. Know anyone other than a geek who must have the latest and greatest who wants a flexible display anything? Sure, we can think of things they could be used for – but none of us has a problem using a display [for example] that’s as flat as a piece of paper.

  2. Everything that rolls up, I find myself constantly trying to flatten out.

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