Samsung's Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Z Flip 3 were just announced last week. The company once again appears to be poised to dominate the nascent foldable market, but Samsung innovation isn't slowing down.
A leaked patent filing in Germany points to Samsung perhaps closing in on a release of its first rollable phone. A Dutch tech site, LetsGoDigital, has created a series of renders based on the patent filing to give a clearer look at what to expect (via Notebookcheck).
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This isn't of course the first rollable phone concept we've seen. Before shuttering its mobile business LG showed off its rollable phone at CES 2021 and TCL has been teasing with rollable prototypes for a couple of years now, but Samsung is positioned well to be first to market.
The patent sketches show a fairly typical-looking phone with a waterfall display that then extends to a small tablet form factor. It's delivering a similar experience to what you get from the Galaxy Z Fold 3, but with some advantages and a couple of drawbacks.
Positives for the rollable design over the foldable include overall size and weight. A rollable should only be marginally thicker and heavier than a standard phone. It should also come in much closer to standard phone pricing. Although the specialized screen and internal mechanisms drive up costs, it could also have a camera experience similar to a true flagship device. More than anything else, this is likely out of concern for pricing and thickness on current foldables.
The downsides of the rollable are that you lose some of the unique software tricks of the foldables, primarily Flex mode options. You are also likely dealing with a motor-driven mechanism to extend the display, which is a durability/longevity concern. Durability isn't a strong suit for foldables either, but they are at least more of a known quantity at this point.
Some of the renders show an S Pen, which is a reasonable assumption given that Samsung appears to be positioning this as a feature for all of its top-tier flagships. However, it's worth noting these aren't drawn from the patent sketches.
The most puzzling feature of the Galaxy Z Slide (or Galaxy Z Roll, Samsung has trademarked both names) patent sketches is the rear display. It stretches the full height of the device and is just short of half of its width. When I first looked at it, I assumed this was the rest of the display which rolled to the front, but that isn't the case, that section remains even with the display fully extended. This would be more akin to the cover display on the Galaxy Z Flip 3 than the Galaxy Z Fold 3 as it would surely have reduced functionality compared to a full display.
It's an intriguing design and given Samsung's recent history we would expect to start seeing concrete hardware leaks in the next few months if this device is actually going to make it to market in 2022.