Forget the foldable phone — 2021 was supposed to be the year of the rollable phone. And LG was all set to lead the way with the LG Rollable.
The much-anticipated device made its debut at CES 2021 in a very brief teaser announcement. While LG didn’t have a lot to say about the phone, it did show the device’s screen can expanded to a tablet size without the folding screen — and crease — that have marked other devices like the Galaxy Z Fold 2 and Galaxy Z Flip 5G.
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It was all very exciting, and LG look poised to really reinvent the market for foldable phones with the launch of the LG Rollable. That is, until LG announced it was shutting down its money-losing phone business. The move would seem to move the LG Rollable from the "coming soon" column over to "never going to happen," though LG hasn't formally confirmed the fate of that project.
We can't pretend we're not disappointed, as the LG Rollable had the potential to do something Samsung's foldables haven't pulled off yet — convince more people to buy phones with an unconventional design.
Here’s a look back at what might have been with the LG Rollable.
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LG Rollable phone release date
LG said at CES that the LG Rollable would ship this year, but didn’t provide a concrete date for when to expect it. Initially, leakers pointed to March, though some rumors had pushed the date back to June. Of course, now with LG winding down its phone business by July, it sounds as if we're never going to see the LG Rollable, barring some move by LG to hand off the project to someone else.
LG Rollable phone price
Innovation tends to cost you in this market. The current going rate for folding phones is quite high, and typically ranging from $1,300 to $2,000, with the Galaxy Z Fold 2 setting the upper limit, even after a $200 price cut brought its cost down to $1,799. The LG Rollable was expected to be even more expensive.
At some point, the LG Rollable was rumored to cost around $2,359 — nearly $400 more than the Galaxy Z Fold 2 when it launched. LG never formally confirmed any price range, though.
Currently, manufacturers Oppo and TCL are also working on their own rollable smartphones, and Samsung could have something similar with the rumored Galaxy Scroll. None of those devices have a rumored price attached that might give us some expectation as to what the LG Rollable might have cost.
LG Rollable phone features
Despite several third-party leaks, we actually learned the most from LG about the Rollable. In the phone's short but sweet reveal teaser back in January, we got a quick look at what the phone looks like when it rolls out to change its size. You hold the LG Rollable in landscape orientation, with its top sliding upward to size up to what appears to be a tablet-sized device.
From our quick glance at LG’s CES keynote, it didn't look like the phone has a front-facing camera — at least not one that’s immediately visible.
It isn't immediately obvious how the Rollable would expand and retract, but a previous LG patent (first spotted by LetsGoDigital) indicated that there were two sides with moving parts that extended. According to the teaser video, that may not be the case. Again, this might not be the final view of how the Rollable actually works when it does arrive.
In terms of size, the LG Rollable was assumed to offer two different sizes: a 6.8-inch default display, and a 7.4-inch display when fully extended, or "rolled' out." Again, returning to LetsGoDigital, reports indicated that the phone would feature a 2428 x 1600 resolution while at 7.4 inches. When sized down to 6.8 inches, it would reportedly be 2428 x 1080.
LG never offered any sort of official spec sheet or feature list beyond what we’ve saw, so aside from the phone’s name and the fact that it does extend into a larger screen, we’re working off of supposition.
I.P. Park, LG's chief technology officer, told CES attendees that the rollable phone was in the spirit of LG products like the LG Signature OLED R, a TV with a screen that rolls into place. The idea, Park continued, is that flexible designs "give us the freedom to rethink what we're doing" with phones and to come up with new experiences that benefit from the LG Rollable's unique design.
LG Rollable phone outlook
It's fairly bleak at the moment for the LG Rollable, considering the state of LG's phone business. Our only hope — short of LG reviving the phone somehow — is that the failure of this product to launch won't impact the overall foldable market. Samsung has vowed to release more foldables this year, and rumors suggest that both Apple and Google have foldable devices in the works. Hopefully these can fill the gap that the LG Rollable has left.