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Flexible smartphone curls up when it gets a call

A prototype smartphone uses a flexible display and a layer of memory wires to notify users of incoming calls by curling up its corners.

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser
2 min read
This phone can do sit-ups. Queen's University

The MorePhone is a very acrobatic smartphone. It's made with a flexible display and shape memory alloy wires. When a call comes in, it activates the wires and causes the whole phone to curl up. It's an unmistakeable visual cue that you've got someone on the line.

The curling smartphone was developed by researchers at Queen's University Human Media Lab in Canada. The thin electrophoretic display that makes the movement possible was manufactured by Plastic Logic, a company specializing in plastic electronics. The alloy wires can trigger the phone to curl up at all corners, or to curl back individual corners to indicate different events, like an incoming text message or e-mail.

"Users are familiar with hearing their phone ring or feeling it vibrate in silent mode. One of the problems with current silent forms of notification is that users often miss notifications when not holding their phone," says Roel Vertegaal, director of the Human Media Lab and creator of other flexible phone prototypes. "With MorePhone, they can leave their smartphone on the table and observe visual shape changes when someone is trying to contact them."

While the MorePhone is a prototype, it also offers a sneak peek at where phone designs are heading. Vertegaal expects this sort of flexible phone to be on the market within 5 to 10 years. The development of flexible displays still has a ways to go. The MorePhone, for example, doesn't even have a color display.

Even when I carry my smartphone in my back pocket, I still sometimes miss calls, despite its best efforts to vibrate and ring for my attention. I can't wait to get a MorePhone. I don't think I could accidentally ignore a smartphone that grabs my butt every time a call arrives.