Are Multi-Screen, Portable Devices Just a Gimmick?

If you had asked me what I thought of multi-screen portable devices a week ago, I’d have been highly skeptical.

Now, twice in the last week, I’ve been impressed (maybe even wowed) by a couple of these devices, one concept, one production.

First, check out this concept phone, called the Flip, from Kristian Ulrich Larsen.

According to Engadget:

It’s a triple-display handset running stock Android that pops out like a tent, collapses into a standard (if curved) slate, and even folds out like a little book. Each screen is said to be Super AMOLED hiding behind Gorilla Glass, with steel mesh acting as hinges — and there’s a full QWERTY keyboard somewhere in there too.

I love this design, its re-imagination of a pocket-sized device and its creative approach to making the device expand and contract as needed. I would totally buy this, or at least, whine to my wife until she bought me one as a gift.

Next up is the NEC dual-screen Android tablet, reviewed by Phandroid at CES earlier in the month. This is much closer to production.

Sounds like a gimmick, but when you see this monster in action, you realize it doesn’t totally suck. There are some pretty well thought-out use cases for a dual-screen tablet. The bummer here is that NEC will likely have some trouble attracting mass development adoption for a device like this.

Still, the idea and implementation aren’t bad at all.

What do you think of these two? Do multi-screen portables have a future?

Find the comments.




  1. Love the phone. Nice way to get a big screen feel into a small device. The tablet is pretty cool too. See how much screen space there was even with the virtual keyboard on? Beats the hell out of the iPad in that respect.

    I would suggest that the issue here isn’t really multiple screen so much as big screen. They only have multiple screens because they need hinges to allow them to fold to a small footprint. What they really need is screens like this,



  2. Yeah, I struggled with how to put that. You’re right though, multiple screens is an implementation. The real use case is a portable, large screen. I’ve seen flexible screens, suspect they’ll be coming in the next decade, along w projecting the device’s UI onto surfaces. Very sci-fi stuff, within reach.

  3. One aspect is folding the screens in to protect them, either from damage or inadvertent operation. I’ve seen a lot of iPad cases that act like a protective folder. Seems daft not to put that other face to some use.

  4. Perhaps related, I don’t have a case on my iPad bc it ruins the design. I take care to keep it protected, but when I did have a case briefly, it ruined the design for me. Same thing for phones.

    Therefore, I agree that designing for protection that doubles as utility (screens) is what makes these devices sweet.

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