Nokia: Flexible Kinetic smartphone possible within 3 years

Nokia's Kinetic flexible smartphone concept could hit the market in less than three years, the company has confirmed, offering not just a bendy screen but an entire device that can be twisted and squeezed. Shown off at Nokia World earlier this week as part of the company's research drive, the Kinetic concept would simply require putting together existing technologies Head of Design, Technology Insights Tapani Jokinen says.

When we played with the Kinetic prototype, Nokia was keen to point out that a rubberized casing and twist-friendly display are only two of the necessary elements. You also need a battery and mainboard that can stand up to distortion; the Kinetic currently does its processing on a separate, cable-tethered PC.

Still, it's a compelling device. Nokia's custom UI – which Jokinen told us was basically platform agnostic, and could sit on top of any OS around today, whether Symbian, Windows Phone or something else – handles music and photo gallery navigation and control, with lateral twisting scrolling through lists and twisting the phone forward or back controlling zoom. Alternative uses could include squeezing the phone to answer or mute calls, or allow you to control it while it's still in your pocket, similar to Microsoft Research's PocketTouch system.

Flexible gadgets are seemingly all the rage today, with Samsung also confirming that it plans to use its bendable AMOLED panels in commercial smartphones – and then tablets and other devices – sometime in 2012. However, it's unclear whether the rest of the new Samsung phones will bend as well, or if the company will simply use the new displays to fit bigger, single-piece screens into clamshell housings as per its recent prototype.