As usual with such trade shows, products shown off at CES aren't always ready to go on sale, and some, like Samsung's flexible smartphone screen, are little more than prototypes to show off what's possible and give us a glimpse at the future.

Samsung curved OLED phone
Credit: The Verge

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Tech firms have talked about flexible screens before, but we couldn't really understand what all the fuss was about, until Samsung took the covers off its prototype smartphone at CES this week.

Unwilling to disclose even the exact screen size, never mind a price or release date, Samsung has made it clear that curved OLED screens for smartphone are some way off, but certainly in development nonetheless.

Although not immediately obvious, the advantage of a curved screen like this becomes clear when you cover the screen with a regular phone case. Doing so will leave the curved edge on display, where notifications, a stock market ticket or the time could be shown subtly.

As OLED screens do not require a backlight, it may well be possible to power just the curved edge of the screen, so constantly displaying a news feed or your Twitter notifications shouldn't have a huge impact on battery life.

Beyond that, it isn't clear what Samsung has planned for phones with flexible OLED screens like this, but it's always good to see manufacturers pushing ahead to work with and develop new technologies.

The Verge got some hands-on time with the prototype at CES, but Samsung was incredibly vague about the phone's specifications, revealing that it has a screen of around five inches with a 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio, and a resolution of "about" 720p.

Samsung also said the prototype lacks a radio, camera and most other features you'd find in a phone, and the operating system is little more than a selection of images resembling mock ups of the company's TouchWiz Android skin.

Smartphones with flexible OLED screens should probably be filed under 'cool but pointless' for now, but we wouldn't be surprised to see the technology improved and expanded on over the next couple of years.