Samsung's Galaxy Z Fold 2 is currently its most sophisticated folding phone, but a future Galaxy phone could take things even further with a rollable design.
We've discovered this thanks to a newly granted patent, filed by Samsung's engineers and spotted by Patently Apple. It details how the company could design a device with a rollable display, and specifically mentions smartphones as a potential use case.
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Patents never guarantee a specific idea will eventually turn into something you can buy. But the fact that a company is iterating on an idea hopefully means users will get at least some small benefit from the work.
The plan as laid out in this patent, straightforwardly titled "Rollable display apparatus," details a flexible screen that is mounted to a small cuboid frame, either wound around a roller inside the frame or around the frame itself. Users can then detach the magnetic edge of the display and pull out as much as they need, with the main controls, fingerprint recognition and power source kept on the frame. When they're done, the user can either coil the display back up themselves or activate a mechanism to retract it depending on which version of the patent you're looking at.
The screen itself is made of an OLED or LCD display surface and an underlying support structure. This structure is there to help keep things sturdy and to contain the circuitry needed to provide the panel with power, touchscreen receptors and data. The patent claims this could roll up into a cylindrical or polygonal shape depending on the exact construction of the support pieces.
Within the text of the patent the designers admit that this is not a comprehensive design, as there could be other elements required to make it work. Nor are the measurements or scale of the drawings meant to be accurate. This is meant to be an outline rather than a specific product, but it's exciting all the same.
We've seen rollable screens make it into real-life prototypes thanks to LG's rollable TV from CES 2019, or TCL's expanding and contracting smartphone concept. We know that LG is also looking into making a rollable smartphone, as is Apple. Perhaps the rollable phone will be a future high-tech battle ground for smartphone companys, in much the same way as foldables are currently.
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Richard is based in London, covering news, reviews and how-tos for phones, tablets, gaming, and whatever else people need advice on. Following on from his MA in Magazine Journalism at the University of Sheffield, he's also written for WIRED U.K., The Register and Creative Bloq. When not at work, he's likely thinking about how to brew the perfect cup of specialty coffee.