It wouldn’t be Mobile World Congress without some incredible concept phones on display, and so far MWC 2023 has not disappointed. In fact Lenovo came to the show with two different concepts for us to check out — a rollable phone and a rollable laptop.
Rollable phone concepts are nothing new, of course. We’ve seen concept devices from various companies over the past couple of years, including ones from the likes of LG and Samsung. But now Lenovo is adding two new rollable concepts of its own into the mix. And in Lenovo's versions, there are no creases in sight on those displays.
Lenovo actually gave us a glimpse of both devices at the Lenovo Tech World 2022 conference back in October. But this time, we’ve actually been able to see the two concept devices up close and get an idea of what they’re actually capable of.
Lenovo's rollable phone remains unnamed, but it bears the unmistakable logo of Lenovo-owned Motorola. What we have is a 5-inch display that can expand upward into a 6-inch display at the push of a button. What makes this device particularly special is that you don’t lose access to that extra inch of screen space when the screen contracts.
Anyone that’s seen a foldable like the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 or the Oppo Find N2 Flip will know all about the cover display. That smaller standalone screen lives outside the phone, letting you access apps, see notifications and take photos when the phone is closed shut.
Lenovo’s spin takes all the best bits of the cover display, but doesn’t separate it from the main screen. Instead, it's part of the main screen, just rolled away at the back of the phone. This means that, unlike some other rollable phone concepts, you can take full advantage of the display no matter what configuration your phone happens to be in.
The rolling mechanism can be activated at the push of a button, though Lenovo's phone does have some contextual awareness. One of the examples of this in action involved opening a YouTube video and flipping the phone into landscape mode. This prompted the phone to extend the display, launching into full screen mode. The screen would also extend in Gmail when drafting a new message.
In addition, there’s a selfie camera hiding behind the display. Opening up the camera in selfie mode has the camera pop up from behind the screen. Apparently there’s no need for an under-display camera when the screen can just move out of the way.
The cover display-like feature also has an added benefit with the camera, letting photo subjects see themselves from the perspective of the camera. It’s something we’d like to see come to other top foldable phones if we’re being honest. There’s nothing stopping this feature from appearing on the likes of the Galaxy Z Flip 5 or even the Motorola Razr 2023.
Lenovo's rollable laptop concept doesn't have quite as much to offer right now — certainly not from a feature perspective, anyway. All we saw during our demo was the display extending upward to double the available screen space. Not that this isn’t impressive, of course. We all love a big screen display, we just don’t like that they typically have to come in big laptops.
The rollable laptop is 12.7-inches when closed, and 15.3 inches when fully extended. According to Lenovo, the extending mechanism lets your laptop's display go from a 4:3 aspect ratio up to 8:9 — which is equivalent to two 16:9 displays stacked on top of each other. All that fits inside the form factor of your typical 13-inch laptop.
The screen mechanism is rated for 20,000 to 30,000 rolling cycles, and the extra screen lives under the keyboard when not in use.
That screen uses the same flexible OLED as the ThinkPad X1 Fold concept, but the mechanism keeps the whole thing much tighter — so there’s no discernable crease. The mechanism itself runs at 10mm per second, which Lenovo admits needs improving.
As impressive as these devices may seem right now, they remain concepts, with Lenovo admitting that more work needs to be done before they’re ready for mass production. That means there are no potential release windows, specs lists, or anything else of that nature for either the rollable phone or laptop.
For the rollable laptop, Lenovo is focussed on ruggedizing the mechanism, and shrinking down the size of the components. Doing so would mean there’s room for more hardware, including things like bigger batteries. The company had less to say about the rollable phone — only that it was seeking feedback on how it could be better refined.
So we’ll just have to sit tight and wait to see what the future holds. In any case, the future looks very impressive when it comes to expanding displays.