LG announced it will launch the world’s first rollable smartphone this year, as it offered a sneak peek of the device at CES 2021 with a five-second teaser video.
The clip features a smartphone held in landscape orientation as the display rolls in from an expanded tablet-style form factor screen into a more compact chassis.
The hybrid handset is said to be based on flexible organic light-emitting diode technology, which is reportedly being supplied by China’s BOE Technology Group, although the specifics of the tech remain unclear. Speaking at CES, the company told Nikkei Asia that the product would be officially released later this year:
“Our management wanted to show that it is a real product, as there were many rumors around the rollable phone,” said Ken Hong, a spokesman for LG. “As it is released at CES 2021, I can tell that it will be launched this year.”
LG’s rollable display follows the moderate success of Samsung foldable smartphones, and comes as the LG’s phone business is struggling financially due to stiff competition from the likes of Samsung, Huawei and Apple.
Apple has explored rollable displays in the past, based on patents from the company. In March 2020, a patent attributed to Apple appeared on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office that describes an “Electronic device with flexible display structures.”
The patent details a flexible display that can be wrapped around one or more internal roller mechanisms, allowing the screen to expand out of the chassis. A rigid section remains to house the printed circuit boards and other electronic components, but with the addition of the rollable display layers.
“Elongated bistable support members may run along the edges of the display or may be overlapped by a central active area of the display to help stiffen and support the display in its extended position,” explains the patent, which conceives the technology as adaptable to anything from a smartphone to a smartwatch.
As with all Apple patents, there’s no indication that Apple has plans to bring such a device to market, but it is interesting to see what sorts of future solutions Apple is eyeing as it seeks to innovate beyond current consumer-use technologies.