Samsung's Cling Band Concept Hints at Its Vision for Future Wrist Phones

Samsung is dreaming big and having fun when it comes to display concepts. Let's hope this tech makes it into the real world.

Katie Collins Senior European Correspondent
Katie a UK-based news reporter and features writer. Officially, she is CNET's European correspondent, covering tech policy and Big Tech in the EU and UK. Unofficially, she serves as CNET's Taylor Swift correspondent. You can also find her writing about tech for good, ethics and human rights, the climate crisis, robots, travel and digital culture. She was once described a "living synth" by London's Evening Standard for having a microchip injected into her hand.
Katie Collins
3 min read
Samsung Rollable Wrist Phone

Samsung's Cling Band in backbend mode.

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Samsung's ambition to make OLED displays bendier than Simone Biles never fails to delight and impress us. I was especially excited to see that among its rollable, foldable concepts at this year's Mobile World Congress in Barcelona was the company's first attempt at making a wrist-worn watch, which it's currently calling the Samsung Cling Band.

Samsung has a strong track record of making phones, smartwatches and fitness bands. The Cling Band is an amalgamation of all of these devices, but it's also something new altogether. In candy bar mode, it looks like a standard phone, but with a series of ridges alongside its backside below the camera module. But when it's in "backbend mode" -- as I feel compelled to describe it -- it curves over to create a perfectly domed bridge.

Samsung Shows Off Wrist Phone Among Weird and Wonderful Display Concepts

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I'll be honest, Samsung's wrist phone concept is more rough and ready at this stage than the more polished Motorola concept, which we also saw at Mobile World Congress. But there's a real novelty factor in being able to flick a phone against your arm and watch it curl around your wrist, just like the slap bracelets of my childhood. As with other foldable phones, you can see creases in some parts of the display, but the bulk of it was remarkably smooth when it's curved.

One of the two samples I saw had a working display and I was able to do some basic scrolling, although most of the time this just resulted in the image on screen zooming in and out. The Cling Band definitely looked coolest when it was displaying a gallery of photos all of the way around. Perhaps a wrist-worn phone could make a genuinely interesting, customizable fashion accessory -- much more so than more established wearables, such as smart rings, smartwatches and glasses.

Samsung's display team has clearly been allowed to let its imagination run riot ahead of MWC, as its entire booth was full of interesting concepts. One that caught my eye was the Flex Magic Pixel, which adjusts the viewing angle of the screen for privacy so the person sitting next to you on the subway can't take a sneaky peek while you're checking your bank balance on your commute. The technology is a combination of Samsung's OLED technology and its AI capabilities, and the result was effective: I could only see what was on the screen when I looked at it face-on.

Samsung OLED headphones

It would be very useful to be able to check your battery level directly on your headphones.

Andrew Lanxon/CNET

The display team has also been experimenting with fitting small OLED panels that feature tidbits of useful information into smaller devices, including headphones and car keys. This is ideal for people like me, for me who can never remember whether they've locked the car. I also especially like the idea of being able to easily control my music or check the battery level of my headphones without having to reach for my phone. 

An earbuds case on the stand included a circular OLED, which featured a spinning vinyl disc with an artist's face in the middle to signal what was currently playing. The inclusion of a screen always puts more strain on the battery life of a device, so this may not be terribly practical solution, but it sure looked pretty.

Samsung also once again teased its rollable display concept that we first saw last year, as well as flexible display that was as thin as paper. Let's hope that rather than folding up these concepts and putting them away for a later date, Samsung actually decides to roll them out and integrate products that we can buy in the coming year.