Tech analysts, experts, gurus, and geeks alike tend to look at the Apple iPhone as the benchmark for future smartphone design. When the iPhone originally introduced an exclusively touchscreen cell phone experience, the industry knew they were looking into the future. Now that the iPhone 4S has an ultra-advanced app that enables users to simply ask for a phone number lookup to get it, next year’s run-of-the-mill mobile phones are sure to include the same thing. But no matter how smart, thin, and sexy the latest iPhone and other mobile advancements of 2011 have been, none incorporate an attribute that’s certain to make a breakthrough in the year 2012: the ability to bend.
When you think about it, it makes perfect sense to invest in technology that allows pocket-size devices to become bendable. Humans are bendable, and therefore anything on our person that isn’t is at perpetual risk of being damaged when the body commits to basic natural contortions. Right now, we carry around fragile and frigid devices just asking to be smashed; when your thigh gets squashed against the side of the bus after another passenger heaves his way into the small seat next to you, you better hope your phone is in your other pocket. But with a bendable device, the impact would be spread out against your body when the device molds to the shape of your leg upon striking the side of the bus.
This isn’t just talk based on paper prototypes: Nokia and Samsung are both currently in the process of perfecting bendable prototypes that already exist. But these companies are taking a careful lesson likely mined from the long-lasting and highly successful practices of Apple Inc.: not only provide revolutionary form, give it a reason to exist as well. The twisting and bending of these new phones won’t just be for show and to safeguard against destruction. As far as we can tell from the prototypes that have been released, bending such a phone when it’s unlocked will result in a particular function being performed; if you want to scroll, you’ll curl one end upward as though you were squeezing the most out of a tube of toothpaste.
As far as 2012 is concerned, little will likely be achieved in this subset of mobile device short of further trade show revelations and an end-of-year release to see how well next year’s holiday market warms up to the idea of a bendable smartphone. But whether it’s next year or the year afterward, bendable smartphones are going to become a hot item for mobile-minded consumers. It’s a revolutionary attribute we surprisingly did not see Apple incorporate first. In fact, this might be the first time in which Apple will blatantly copy the breakthrough of another company when it comes to smartphone technology.