Foldable Phones and Tablets Are Around the Corner

A flexible display could conform to any shape or curvy surface.

Tablets that collapse into phones. Smartphones that fold up like wallets. Those are coming and a Japanese company has the goods to prove it.

At a recent event in Japan, Semiconductor Energy Laboratory (SEL), demonstrated a display that can be folded in three.

It’s not hard to see how this kind of technology could cause a sea change in device development. Products will expand and collapse at will. Open a device as a tablet at a coffee shop then fold it into a smartphone on your way out the door.

This is a big step up from the curved displays available today from Samsung on its Galaxy Note Edge or LG on its G Flex.

“We are starting to see flexible [or curved displays] show up in phones and watches,” said Paul Semenza, an analyst at NPD DisplaySearch. “However, all of these so far have been ‘fixed,’ meaning that they are bent or curved once, and then fixed in place behind strengthened glass.”

On the other hand, the display shown off by SEL can be used in consumer devices whose shape is not fixed. Bendable smartphones and tablets are two examples, Norihiko Seo, General Manager at the Intellectual Property Division of SEL, told Foxnews.com.

In a video, SEL shows the display — based on OLED or Organic Light-Emitting Diode technology, widely used in smartphones today — laying flat in tablet mode. Then it is folded in three (what SEL calls “tri-fold”) into a smaller size that would be suitable for a smartphone.

So, who’s going to use these displays? Microsoft is one possibility, said Seo. SEL and the former Nokia team (now part of Microsoft) have been working together on this technology, according to Seo.

Microsoft declined to comment when contacted by FoxNews.com.

And Samsung has been vocal about this technology for a couple of years. It demonstrated a bendable display back in 2013 that was made of “extremely thin” plastic, instead of glass, that won’t break when it’s dropped. Like the SEL display, it can be flexed at will.

When we will we see real devices? Samsung has been talking about 2015 to introduce products with foldable displays.

Seo of SEL — which is strictly an R&D company — is mum on the subject of products but he adds that his company’s displays have attracted a lot of interest from manufacturers.

DisplaySearch’s Semenza thinks it’s a few years further out for use in a mass-market, high-volume consumer device.

Ikea Bends Over for Flexible LED Lighting

Light emitting diodes, better known as LEDs, run cool and use very little electricity. That’s a cost benefit that furniture giant Ikea simply can’t pass up.

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The company is partnering with Scottish company Design LED Products to incorporate thin, flexible LED tiles on to a range of household products from furniture to bulbless lamps or for television backlighting.

“This technology opens up fantastic possibilities for innovative designs using energy efficient LEDs,” says managing director of IKEA GreenTech Christian Ehrenborg in a press release. “The partnership is a clear strategic fit for IKEA and our goal to make living sustainably affordable and attractive for millions of people.”

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The lights last 20 times longer than conventional lighting and can produced in a variety of colors.

Apple Unveils Cheapest iPod Touch Yet

Apple has decided to give some major love to its flagship media player.

The iPhone may have largely replaced the once-iconic iPod for those enjoying tunes and apps on the go, but Apple has decided to give some major love to its flagship media player.

The company just launched a refreshed version of its 16GB iPod touch, which starts at $199 and features the rear iSight camera of its more expensive 32GB and 64GB big brothers.

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Available now at Apple’s retail and online stores, the $199 iPod touch is the cheapest version yet of Apple’s music player. Like the rest of Apple’s iPod touch lineup, the new 16GB model packs a 4-inch 1136 x 640 Retina display, an Apple A5 processor, a 1.2-MP FaceTime front camera and a rear-facing 5-MP camera. MORE: 15 Best iPhone Apps You’re Not Using

Apple debuted the fifth-generation 16GB iPod Touch last year for $229, but that version lacked a rear camera and only shipped in silver. You can now nab the device in a wealth of vibrant colors, including pink, yellow, blue, space gray, silver and “product”-branded red, the latter of which helps aid charities.

The new iPod touch ships with iOS 7, and you’ll be able to upgrade it to iOS 8 this fall to take advantage of features like Healthkit and Homekit.

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The 32GB and 64GB versions of the iPod touch have also gone down in price, now selling for $249 and $299, respectively. If want to enjoy most of the iPhone’s features without the contract — or you’re not ready to hand your child a phone — the new iPod touch looks like a pretty good deal.

 

Bitcoin to Get a TV Network

Broadcasts will be provided by a centralized authority, through the joint efforts of Kryptoradio and the Digita DVB-T provider.

This September, if all goes according to plan, the Bitcoin blockchain — a transaction database shared by all nodes in the Bitcoin protocol — will take to the radio waves in Finland.

The project is called Kryptoradio. It’s the result of a partnership between Koodilehto, a Finnish co-op specializing in open technology development, and another group that was responsible for developing and encouraging the adoption of the alternative digital currency known as FIMKrypto.

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Together they have secured the rights to transmit updates to the Bitcoin blockchain across digital terrestrial television in Finland. To do so, they will use Digita, a Finnish network that provides coverage for approximately five million people — 95 percent of the population, according to their estimates.

The transmissions are scheduled to continue for two months as part of a pilot program, and longer if they can find the funding for it.

In addition to broadcasting transactional data from the Bitcoin blockchain, Kryptoradio plans to provide updates from the major Bitcoin currency exchanges. The service will also transmit updates to the blockchain of the FIMKrypto currency.

Today, the blockchain (which tracks the creation and transfer of all bitcoins) lives primarily on a peer-to-peer network, and in order to access it, you need an Internet connection. But with the recent dramatic increases in Bitcoin’s market value, there has been a push to diversify the way that this information is propagated. Finding new ways to broadcast the blockchain will increase the redundancy of the network, making it more resilient to attacks.

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Jeff Garzik, one of the core Bitcoin developers, is already well on his way to sending Bitcoins to space on a cubesat. (Garzik tells us that the launch contract has been negotiated; it’s likely to be signed next month, and there could be a blockchain in space by August 2015.)

The idea is to use Kryptoradio for new applications that need an easy way to know whether a payment is made. A parking meter, for example, needs only to know whether the payment has been done. It does not need to send anything.

 

iPhone 6 Could Arrive with Apple Wallet

Apple is prepping its own mobile payments system.

 

The iPhone 6 is expected to offer bigger screen sizes and a super-strong display, and it also might replace your wallet. According to a new report, Apple is prepping its own mobile payments system that could launch this fall alongside iOS 8 and the company’s long-awaited new iPhone.

According to The Information, Apple is looking to partner with major credit card companies like Visa to create a method for paying for goods in-store with nothing more than your iPhone. Visa itself just debuted its PayPal-like Visa Checkout service, but Apple’s solution would likely aggregate multiple banks and credit cards. MORE: iPhone 6 Rumors: Specs, Sizes, Camera and More

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The iPhone 6 has been rumored to ship with near field communication (NFC) technology for several months now, which would make mobile payments a no-brainer for the upcoming smartphone. There’s also Apple’s payment patent published earlier this year, one that would allow Apple devices to interact with point-of-sale interfaces over a “secure link” to ensure user data isn’t compromised.

The Information’s report says that Apple may decide to skip NFC altogether and instead opt for Bluetooth or Wi-Fi for transferring payment information. In this scenario, your credit card info would be stored on the Web.

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The closest thing Apple currently has to a mobile payment solution is its Passbook app, which lets you store things like boarding passes and giftcards in a single location. Turning the iPhone into a wallet replacement could be as simple as making your credit card yet another item that can be saved to Passbook, complete with Touch ID verification to ensure no one else runs around spending your money.

Apps like Google Wallet and PayPal allow users to pay for products with their phones alone, so long as a store has a compatible point-of-sale system. There’s no official word yet on an Apple e-wallet, but we expect to learn more soon as the iPhone 6’s rumored September release window draws closer.