LG launched its first rollable smartphone, giving a brief glimpse of the new format during the company’s big CES 2021 talk today. While the phone manufacturer is flirting with some more unusual device designs in response to devices like the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2, it is also working on an even more attractive design.
This is rollable, rather than foldable. The smartphone presented by LG – scheduled to launch for LG Rollable – will look like a regular rectangular smartphone at first glance. However, it will also slide out, a larger flexible OLED panel being revealed as it converts to a small tablet.
It is a different approach than the one Samsung and Huawei used for their folding devices that have so far focused on a shell design. The advantage of the LG Rollable is that it means that no secondary external monitor is required, unlike the Galaxy Z Fold 2. Instead, the interface – which is almost certain to be Android – can adapt to suit how much of the screen you have to show, extend or contract the UI and any applications accordingly.
We’ve seen something like this before, of course. TCL caught the eye last year with a bunch of folding prototypes, but it was the idea of a roll-up that caught the most attention. As with the LG phone, it initially looks like a normal smartphone, but rolls out its panel in a format similar to that of a tablet.
At the time, although TCL said it had working prototypes, the design it displayed was a non-functional model. LG did not give us much more than that, with its provocation of the device far from being a complete demonstration.
It is fair to say that LG’s current next generation responses to the foldable phone world have not been common. Its dual-screen models, using a secondary screen that is attached to make a shell, are relatively affordable, but lack the flexibility – or the technological wow factor – of what Samsung has been doing with the Galaxy Fold. Meanwhile, the LG Wing – with a swivel design that reveals a second touchscreen underneath – is attractive, but not entirely practical.
In contrast, the LG Rollable could be much more attractive – assuming, that is, that LG has all the right details. The smartphone will have some complex mechanical parts to make this mechanism work; it is unclear whether the slider LG intends to use is motorized or manually operated, for example, each bringing its own set of challenges. The long-term durability of the scrollable OLED is also a significant issue. Samsung has found no shortage of problems with the first generation Galaxy Fold, and LG will try to escape as much of them as possible with its rollable.