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After years of incremental upgrades, the smartphone industry finally had a new, eye-catching innovation to offer — the foldable phone. Two years ago, this development created quite a buzz. However, it turns out that smartphone users didn’t actually need or want a foldable screen. Rather, they were more concerned with better cameras and longer battery life — neither of which came with foldable models. These $2,000-plus phones were also susceptible to dust, water, cracks and distortion.
Thus, most consumers wrote these phones off as a status symbol rather than a legitimate product. To this day, foldable technology still hasn’t truly taken off. Instead, smartphone manufacturers are reinventing the market with new innovations — like LG’s rollable phone.
Rollable Phone Features
This much-anticipated device made its debut earlier this year at CES 2021. While LG didn’t have much to say about the phone, it did reveal that its screen could expand to tablet size. The best part was it didn’t have any folds, cracks or creases like a foldable phone. Instead, the screen would expand and contract with some help from moving parts at the top and bottom. Thus, the device would assume two different sizes: a 6.8-inch default display and a 7.4-inch rolled-out display.
Since LG never released a spec sheet, these measurements are only suppositions. However, photo and video teasers and third-party leaks do support these hypotheses. There also doesn’t appear to be a front-facing camera, but LG could have built it into the screen.
LG’s Shifting Vision
LG’s chief technology officer revealed that the company created the rollable phone in the spirit of other products like their Signature OLED R, a TV with a screen that rolls into place. Its unique design made it the world’s first and only rollable TV, and the rollable phone was well on its way to making history, too. That is until LG announced it had quit making phones.
An early April press release made the decision public and, since then, there have been no updates on the rollable phone. Instead, the company will shift its focus to electric vehicle components, connected devices, smart homes, robotics artificial intelligence and other sectors. LG also plans to leverage its mobile expertise to develop 6G, just as people are transitioning to 5G phones.
Subsequently, it’s unclear whether LG will release its rollable phone, but most tech experts agree that such an arrangement is unlikely. If all had gone to plan, LG would have shipped the rollable sometime this year. At this point, however, it seems the world will never see it.
The Future of Rollables
Luckily, a handful of other tech companies have also been developing rollable products, so there’s still hope for the rollable smartphone. Like LG, TCL unveiled a concept for a phone with a rolling screen at CES 2021, saying that the display technology would disrupt the global phone market. Meanwhile, Oppo — a Chinese mobile telecommunications company — has been working on a rollable phone for the past few years.
Because these inventions are still concept smartphones, there’s no immediate plan to release them. However, they’ll likely form the basis of future models and set the pace for other brands looking to ditch foldables and follow suit.
Of course, once rollables finally do hit shelves, high price points could be a major issue for most consumers. The current going rate for foldable phones ranges from $1,300 to $2,000, with LG’s version rumored to cost more than $2,300. Thus, this technology could remain a luxury purchase for wealthy consumers until more competitors enter the market and prices drop.
Room for Improvement
Many consumers have been looking forward to a rollable phone because it offers a sleeker, more durable alternative to foldable models. Plus, its various sizes offer more versatility and simplicity. Once you have a rollable phone, there’ll be no need to buy a tablet, too. However, you’ll have to wait a little longer before getting your hands on one of these bad boys, and that’s not exactly a bad thing.
Since rollable phones are still a concept, there are infinite possibilities when it comes to improving their functionality and design. Instead of expanding and contracting to two or three different sizes, future models might allow users to completely personalize the size. They might even improve the resolution so that every size offers the same image quality.
Brands might also take consumers’ wants and needs into consideration. For example, instead of putting so much effort into a rolling screen, they might focus on improving the phone’s camera and battery life. Odds are more people would be willing to pay the high asking price if the phone checks all their boxes and just happens to feature a cool new design.