Foldable phones may still be the next big thing, but they’re already facing some competition from the next, next big thing in mobile phone technology: rollable phones.
CES 2021 might well be the year of the rollable phone. Not only has the LG Rollable been teased, which will be available later this year, but TCL has also given us an update on its rollable concept we first saw last March.
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TCL says that the phone can extend from a 6.7-inch phone into a 7.8-inch tablet at the tap of a finger, though the video seems to show off a chunkier square-shaped device that expands into the more traditional rectangular phone shape.
Here's a real-life peek at the TCL AMOLED Rollable Display (it'll make you feel like you're at a CES booth again!): #CES2021 pic.twitter.com/RRVM5QAqwcJanuary 11, 2021
Most other rollables we’ve seen start off looking like a normal phone, then expand horizontally into something more akin to a tablet.
So TCL is doing something a little bit different, though it’s not clear whether that’s a good thing or not. Asking people to adjust to a different default form factor after so many years certainly strikes us as an uphill battle.
Speaking to CNET, Stefan Streit, general manager of global marketing for TCL’s phones, said that the company will be releasing a phone with a flexible display this year. But he didn’t clarify whether that meant a rollable phone, like this concept, or a more typical flexible display akin to the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 or upcoming Galaxy Z Fold 3.
Considering TCL has been showing off flexible prototypes for the past few years, we’d assume that it’s the latter. That said, if LG has a rollable phone ready to come to market later this year, there’s nothing so far that suggests TCL can’t do the same.
However, we’ve no idea how much it might cost. With LG’s rollable reported to cost $2,359, TCL would need to come in significantly lower to uphold its reputation for value-priced devices.
Much like foldables, it’s going to be some time before rollable phones are affordable and generally accessible. If you're keen to get a folding device right now, then check out our picks for the best foldable phones.