The battle to bring unique smartphone form factors to market continues as an updated patent for the LG rollable smartphone breaks cover, giving us a slew of new details about the upcoming 2021 handset, and what it could look like.
Rumors about LG's rollable have been swirling about since last year, and the patents we've seen so far have been for a single-sided device that looks like any other candy bar-shaped phone, that can extend the display to the size of a tablet.
The latest patent (via LetsGoDigital (opens in new tab)) takes a bit of a u-turn, with a double-sided smarpthone that looks very much like Xiaomi's dual display rollable, the Xiaomi Mi Alpha R; LG's rollable has no buttons or volume rocker, and unlike Xiaomi's patent, the sides of the handset don't feature a waterfall display.
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The smartphone is reportedly coming this year, but LG gave fans a glimpse of it during its CES 2021 livestream. As much as we love the concept of a rollable smartphone that minimises the chance for hinge-related issues (which Samsung dealt with on the original Galaxy Fold), the dual display seems a bit overkill.
The LG rollable already offers a standard size screen that will extend as required, but there's no front-facing camera visible on the patent – just the triple array on the rear. It's likely then that the second display is required for taking selfies then, acting as a viewfinder.
Sticking a second panel onto a handset seems to be a common solution to a number of problems caused by unique designs; take the Galaxy Z Fold 2, for example. Having an outer display for everyday tasks that don't need the larger screen means it's saving on wear and tear on the inner display crease and hinge. Meanwhile the Huawei Mate Xs folds outwards so there's always a display handy.
We'll also be interested to see what kind of cases are going to be sold alongside the handset; most people wouldn't risk spending hundreds (if not thousands) on a new phone, and not protecting it in a case. How they'll accommodate a sliding screen remains to be seen.
The LG rollable certainly seems to eliminate the crease and hinge problem, but the rail system it uses could be just as susceptible to hiccups; will we see malfunctioning devices stuck at a single size, and unable to properly expand or retract? We're bound to see issues as new tech rolls out, but we're just not sure how practical this device will be for day-to-day use.
The foldables that have hit the market are all pretty pricey, even with the permanent discount Samsung has given to the Galaxy Z Flip 5G. The -shaped LG Wing (part of the company's Explorer project) launched in the US last year at $999 (approx £725 / AU$1,295), but we anticipate a higher price for the LG rollable given the new tech, and dual display.