I understand that we can’t have them right this instant—or at least in a state where the technology is at least usable and at most downright futuristic and the stuff my dreams are made of. But CES 2021 has me thinking about rollable devices again, specifically smartphones that turn into tablets. The Consumer Electronics Show has always been a future-looking tech conference, with brands showing off what they’ve been thinking about developing on top of what they can offer the market now.
I expect the first iterations of rollables won’t be true representatives of its potential. But I’m excited to see more tech companies offer us a different way to access our digital content.
We’ve been discussing here at LiTT why we’re itching to get our hands on rollable phones, and I want to share our thoughts with you! (Sound off on our socials so we can hear from you, too!)
To show off, of course
I’m quoting LiTT’s own Isa R on this one: “They see me rollin’, they hatin’!!!!” Rollable devices will undoubtedly turn heads (and draw skepticism, for sure). It’s undeniable that a rollable gadget will turn heads. It’s a science fiction idea brought to life, more so than a foldable phone that you can unfold to turn into a tablet. (But those are definitely cool, too.)
It can actually fit in my bag
I’m a woman. I carry small purses around as much as I sling on a backpack or a big bag. And I am always annoyed when a smartphone I’m reviewing won’t fit in my bag. Foldables are great for this but imagine if rollables can shrink device sizes further. TCL’s rollable smartphone concept speaks to me so much. It transforms from a 6.7-inch phone to a 7.8-inch tablet. And it even seems to have a reflective back as the video the company shared showed the woman in it applying lipstick while holding the device.
Goodbye, black bars!
Isa pointed out to me how rollables will get rid of aspect ratio issues. It means we can say goodbye to black bars when we watch content. I can imagine the tech unfurling the display to suit the media you’re watching. Say, if you like copying K-Pop music videos, a larger display will make it easier to catch what moves your favorite idols are making.
Just Like what LG showed with its LG Rollable when you’re done with the device, it just slides back in and turns into a typical smartphone. You don’t need to twist, bend, or fold the display to get it back into a more conventional shape. It seems more practical that way.
Appreciating digital magazine spreads and long-form articles
Say goodbye to having to pinch in or zoom out of gorgeous magazine editorials. Yes, I know tablets exist. But I want to revisit the idea of having a screen that adjusts to my needs. It’s also always much easier to read long-form content on bigger displays. And I like a device that can switch between being my e-reader to my phone seamlessly.
We don’t know how rollable devices will work, but one design advantage that has been discussed on different tech sites point out its perceived durability. Without exposed hinges that can get dust or water lodged in them, it might be more durable than foldables. And since the display rolls out, rollables might have fewer creases or none at all. Of course, it might be prone to other issues that the extra mechanical parts might pose. But I’m hopeful about its structural integrity.
Work anywhere, works anywhere
Smartphones turning into your portable computer has been implemented in various ways already. Samsung’s DeX platform comes to mind immediately. But I think these devices could become your monitor and CPU in one. Imagine a future where you carry less gear around to work, and you don’t need to dock your phone to your hotel’s TV. I’m thinking in the future that those laser projected keyboards are the norm, too.
Inspire my inner treasure hunter
TCL showed off a rollable scroll prototype at CES that makes both Isa and I want to tap into our inner treasure hunters (think Nicholas Cage in National Treasure or Angelina Jolie in Tomb Raider). It just makes us want to go on a treasure hunt. The portability of this screen is attractive for us.
There have been rumors going around that LG and TCL might release a version of these rollable devices as early as this year. But I’m tempering my expectations. LG might have teased the LG Rollable at its CES keynote, but it didn’t even mention it. As for TCL, the company is hinting about releasing its foldable device first.
It’s not surprising that these two companies are leading the charge with this new form factor. Just last year, LG released the unusual T-shaped LG Wing as part of its LG Explorer Project, an experimental program from the Korean company. And both brands have been toying around with rollable screens but on their TVs.
They aren’t the only ones thinking about the tech, either. Samsung is supposedly working on its prototype, and OPPO showed off the rollable OPPO X 2021 concept last year.
As much as I want them to arrive right this instant, many factors need to be considered when rolling out (heh) new tech. But the proliferation of folding devices has made people more accepting of unusual mobile form factors. And with that, I’m hoping more companies experiment with rollables and other unique mobile devices.
I would really, really, really like a rollable phone in my hand soon.