LG stunned the world with its rollable Signature OLED TV R at CES in January. We know the company is working on shrinking that technology into a smartphone, and thanks to trademark filings unearthed by LetsGoDigital, we now have an idea what it might call that breakthrough device, too.
LG submitted 10 applications to the European Union Intellectual Property Office on April 10: The Roll, Bi-Roll, Double Roll, Dual Roll, E Roll, Signature R, R Screen, R Canvas, Roll Canvas, and Rotolo. All of them are explicitly intended for smartphones or smartphone displays, and demonstrate that the company isn't merely mulling over the concept of producing rollable handset — it's actively pursuing it.
"We are exploring many different form factors for phones, including foldable and rollable," LG's CTO, IP Park, told Tom's Guide's Mark Spoonauer during an interview at CES earlier in the year. "Because display technology has grown so much that it can make it into very flexible form factors. And with 5G, if the market requires much bigger screens, we'll need to fold it or roll it. So we'll explore."
The market for flexible phones is picking up steam, with Samsung on the brink of releasing its Galaxy Fold on April 25, and Huawei preparing the Mate X for launch later in 2019. As sophisticated as those devices are, however, they're not rollable — which brings with it a whole series of new challenges.
While it's hard to imagine what a rollable LG handset would look like, we've seen glimpses of the company's vision for a foldable device on a few separate occasions. Last year, LetsGoDigital published patent sketches of a foldable phone with a more vertical orientation than what either Samsung or Huawei's products offer. Based on this concept, LG's device will unfold upward, rather than sideways.
And then, just earlier this month, the same website shared testing images from an application filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. They depict just the display component — not tied to a battery, chassis or any other hardware — flexing at multiple points.
Could LG truly be on the brink of launching such a device, or is it merely still wishful thinking at this stage? It's hard to say, though one thing's for sure — the company's smartphone division definitely could use a win.
It's not that LG doesn't attempt to innovate; the just-launched G8 ThinQ, for example, packs some pretty fascinating hardware, like a time-of-flight camera that can bounce light off the veins in your hand for a whole new category of biometric authentication.
But it's the execution, not the ambition, that's often lacking in LG's handsets. "By putting novelty ahead of function, the G8 sabotages itself," our Caitlin McGarry said in her review of the G8 ThinQ. In chasing the dream of flexible phones, let's hope LG doesn't throw function by the wayside yet again.