Forward-looking: For all the advancements smartphones have made over the years, one technology we're still waiting for, which would be much appreciated, is self-repairing screens. However, according to an analyst firm, they will be here by 2028.
CCS Insight's roundup of predictions for the technology industry in 2024 and beyond, which includes a warning of generative AI's "cold shower" moment next year, also covers the prospect of displays in consumer devices that can self-heal to fix minor damage such as scratches and dents. The analyst firm believes these screens will be here within the next five years.
The technology would work by using a nano-coating on a screen's surface. If the display is scratched, the coating reacts with the air to create a new build-up of material, filling in the mark.
The technology wouldn't be able to repair big visible cracks, but it should be able to remove the kind of scratches that are caused to phones by carrying them in pockets or everyday use.
CCS Insight said it is confident that either a phone company or a glass maker such as Corning will release self-repairing screens before 2028.
We have seen attempts at self-healing screens before. LG boasted in 2013 that the G Flex, with its vertically curved, flexible screen, had a self-repairing coating on the back cover. It wasn't very good, though. The same tech was used in the 2015 G Flex 2. Again, it was far from impressive, taking hours to do anything and often not working at all.
In 2017, a Motorola patent was uncovered that described using a "shape memory polymer," a material that can repair damage by reshaping itself through thermal cycling (rapidly changing its temperature). Applied to the top of a screen, the heat could be provided by the phone itself.
Another apparent breakthrough came in 2017 when scientists in Japan discovered a new type of glass that can heal itself from cracks at room temperature. It was said to repair a phone screen using just hand pressure.
Even Apple has been involved. The Cupertino company was granted a patent in 2020 for a folding iPhone with a display that self-heals.
We're still waiting to see phones that remove their own cosmetic scratches effectively, of course, but CCS Insight seems pretty sure they'll be here in a few years.