As we enter the final months of 2011, the thoughts of tech watchers like me are turning to what we can expect in 2012.

Voice recognition in all our devices? Touch control replacing the mouse and keyboard? The death of the wallet as mobile payments become mainstream?

Maybe. But what I’m most excited about is something far more audacious: flexible screens.

Expecting this much-anticipated technology to become widely available in 2012 is optimistic but not unthinkable.

Last week, Nokia demoed a mindblowing prototype handheld device that lets you bend and twist the screen to complete actions like scrolling and zooming.

Meanwhile, Samsung said on an earnings call last week that it expected to debut phones with flexible displays in 2012 and that flexible tablets would follow.

The advantages of flexible displays are obvious: They’re more durable, and they pave the way for new input methods, such as bending the display to zoom.

But where will this new tech take us?

I think this technology will lead to the biggest breakthrough in mobile devices since the touchscreen. In fact, the next innovation in screen technologies may be an even bigger leap forward than touch displays.

Think not of a bendable display but of a foldable one.

You see, the biggest limitation of any device these days is screen size. There’s a constant tension at play: You can have a small screen that fits in your pocket (your phone) or a big screen for home use (a tablet computer).

But you can’t have both. Or can you?

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