LG rollable phone teased at CES 2021 — is this the phone of the future?

LG Rollable demo during CES 2021 press conference
(Image credit: LG)

Foldables are an afterthought when it comes to market share, but they have certainly managed to capture the attention of premium smartphone buyers. Options like the Samsung Z Fold 2 give users a tablet and a smartphone in one or you can enjoy a big-screen phone that becomes more pocketable like the Galaxy Z Flip

While LG gave us the wild LG Wing this year, it has yet to release a foldable phone, but at its CES 2021 press conference this morning the company gave us a very brief look at the LG Rollable, a phone that could challenge the foldable market (via Engadget).

As the name straightforwardly suggests, this is a rolling display that converts from a phone into a tablet form factor. Rather than using a hinge mechanism to reveal additional screen space, it extends itself with an internal motor, reminiscent of some of the pop-up front-facing camera designs we've seen on a much larger scale. Here's a look at the rolling screen in action.

LG Rollable demo converting from phone to tablet

(Image credit: LG)

It looks like a more elegant solution than the folding phones we've seen to date, but we'll withhold final judgment on that until we see it in person. And we have no idea when that might happen; LG didn't offer any information regarding when we will be able to actually purchase the Rollable or what it might cost when it is available.

TCL was demoing some similar concept devices at CES 2020 and back in November Oppo revealed one of its own, but to date, none of these rollable smartphones have made it to market. However, it's clear that we are probably nearing the finish line for one of these concepts to make it to consumers, even if they may command an eye-watering price. Samsung laid the groundwork for that strategy with its foldables, so we wouldn't be shocked to see similar pricing in the $1,800 to $2,000 range for early rollables.

While they avoid some of the pitfalls of foldables, rollables are sure to have their own concerns with the lifespan of that motorized screen mechanism perhaps chief among them. For now, it's a tantalizing look at yet another new smartphone form factor after almost a decade of the basic slab phone. Count me in.

Sean Riley

Sean Riley has been covering tech professionally for over a decade now. Most of that time was as a freelancer covering varied topics including phones, wearables, tablets, smart home devices, laptops, AR, VR, mobile payments, fintech, and more.  Sean is the resident mobile expert at Laptop Mag, specializing in phones and wearables, you'll find plenty of news, reviews, how-to, and opinion pieces on these subjects from him here. But Laptop Mag has also proven a perfect fit for that broad range of interests with reviews and news on the latest laptops, VR games, and computer accessories along with coverage on everything from NFTs to cybersecurity and more.