Today, Oppo showed off a new concept device, with a rollable display. That means that the phone can look exactly like a normal phone, but with a quick gesture, the display can extend considerably, into a more square aspect ratio. Why would anyone want this? Let’s see.
There have been several patents over the past few years regarding this new category of ‘rollables’. The idea is that the display is wrapped around the back of the phone, just behind the back panel. TCL made a very early concept earlier this year, without a functioning display. Their implementation was manual, which required the user to physically pull the phone open, unlike Oppo’s, which is powered by motors.
Either way, the concept is the same. Start with a normal phone, then the display pulls out to form a bigger display. The underlying principle is very similar to that of foldables.
Oppo X 2021
On the 17th of November, at the Oppo Inno event, they released a new concept phone called the Oppo X 2021. It’s unclear if this will ever become a real device of the same name, but rollables are definitely coming. Oppo’s device uses motors to extend the 6.7″ display to be 7.4″. That may not sound like much of a difference, but as you can see in the images below, that 0.7″ really does make a difference with a squarer aspect ratio.
The device was not slated for commercial release, at least not anytime soon, but the point of it is to prove that it can be done. Oppo can – and will – be known as the first manufacturer to make a functional rollable phone.
So, what’s all the fuss about? Why would you want a rollable phone? Simply put, it realises the dream of having a large screen in your pocket, with far fewer compromises than a foldable.
To see this, all we have to do is look at the best foldable currently on the market: the Z Fold 2. It is a massive improvement over the original Fold, but it has a number of compromises. To be specific: worse cameras, worse battery life, bigger bezels, twice the displays, and that’s not even mentioning the fact that it is over 2x the thickness when compared to similarly-priced flagships. On the other hand, though we haven’t seen a rollable in action, the design is far simpler, so the expected drawbacks are fewer. Namely: worse cameras, slightly worse battery life, and ever so slightly thicker design.
So, yes, I expect the first generation of rollables to be overpriced for the specs, like foldables currently are. But, I expect that by the second or third generation, they will be the most solid option for smartphones, offering the best option for large displays with good specs. Unfortunately, I think that that future is a while off. According to Ice Universe, a reputable leaker, rollables are far away from mass-production, with regular foldables taking the majority of the spotlight in 2021.
Samsung Galaxy Scroll
Soon after Oppo’s event, a number of reputable leakers leaked the upcoming lineup for Samsung’s Unpacked 2021 event. Among them, the Galaxy Scroll, or Galaxy S for short. It is expected to be the world’s first commercially available rollable phone. We know next to nothing about it, just that it will be coming within the next 3-4 months. I, for one, am very excited.
So, what is your opinion of rollables? Are you anticipating them, or do you think foldables are the future? Let me know in the comments below.