Tech Transformers

Bendy phones that wrap around wrists could be reality in 5 years: Lenovo

Bendable smartphones could be a reality in five years, Lenovo's head of mobile told CNBC, after the Chinese technology firm recently showed off a flexible device that can wrap around a user's wrist.

Last month, Lenovo unveiled a concept product called the CPlus, which has a 4.26-inch flexible display and runs Google's Android mobile operating system. While the product is not currently on sale and may never see the light of day, if Lenovo does decides to commercialize the product, it could do so within five years.

"We will discover a whole new suite of opportunities with flexible displays," Aymar de Lencquesaing, co-president of Lenovo's mobile business group, told CNBC during an interview last week at the Viva Technology conference in Paris.


"It's hard to put an exact time frame on it. I think this is a product that could come to market in the next five years ... the next couple is a bit aggressive, in particular because the equation of technology, novelty and price point. So you have to have a product that you can deliver the market that makes it a good value proposition."

Lenovo has been experimenting with new features on smartphones in an overall market which is slowing, as device makers look to differentiate their products from rivals. The Chinese firm recently unveiled an augmented reality smartphone. Samsung is also reportedly working on bendable phones which could be released in 2017, according to Bloomberg, citing unnamed sources.

It comes as Lenovo - which also owns Motorola - faces intense competition from younger Chinese upstarts such as OPPO and Vivo. Lenovo, which was in the top five list of vendors by market share at the end of last year, got knocked out by these new rivals, according to research firm International Data Corporation (IDC).

The company is now trying hard to ramp up its market share to compete with the likes of Samsung, Apple and Huawei - the three biggest smartphone players.

"The phone industry is such that you have two players with more than 10 percent share and many others under 10 (percent), we are one of them. We are going to try to continue to aggressively gain share to get to market position that gives us a scale effect," Lencquesaing told CNBC.

Offline sales key

People check out the computers on display at the Miami Marlins Park, in Miami.
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Lenovo completed the acquisition of Motorola in 2014, something that Lencquesaing said has helped the Chinese company enter new markets. The executive said Lenovo will "accelerate" its penetration into a number of markets in Latin America, North America and India as well as branch into Western Europe.

As the Chinese smartphone market slows down, domestic manufacturers have been looking to increase presence in other markets. Huawei has been expanding into Western Europe, while Xiaomi has launched devices in India.

Lenovo said that its strategy is to have a broader offline presence in many of the emerging markets where internet connection isn't great. It has focused its effort in markets like India on selling directly to consumers through online channels.

"What we did in India, we took a very partial approach and launched an online channel and now have 9 percent market share but that's only from online. It's efficient but does not address (the) whole market," Lencquesaing said.

"It's the nature of those countries, the nature of India and China ... still a large number of consumers are relying on traditional offline channels."