• Rollable displays show that good things can come in small packages. 
  • Experts say rollable displays can give users more screen area while keeping form factors small. 
  • Apple is rumored to be building a rollable iPad.

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 foldable.

Your next mobile device might be able to roll up or expand to a more convenient size when you want it to. 

Lenovo shows off a laptop with a rollout display while Motorola touts its rollout smartphone. Experts say that rollable gadgets might be a step up from the folding screens that have been popular lately. 

“Rollable screens provide a larger effective screen area, providing users with more details in addition to a greater surface area, which can aid in multitasking,” technology consultant and IEEE Life Fellow Tom Coughlin told Lifewire in an email interview. “Additionally, rollable screens have the potential to improve accessibility.”

Rolling Home

Motorola’s new rollable concept phone is just over 4 inches tall and retracts to a pocketable form smaller than most mobile devices on the market. “Whether it be a 6.5″ screen for immersive gaming or a retracted size for on-the-go convenience, this concept provides endless opportunities for content creation and entertainment while offering newfound flexibility of a small device with a wraparound screen,” the company wrote in a news release. 

Nick Brill, the director of product development at hardware manufacturer VisionTek, told Lifewire in an email that rollable devices offer users larger screens in a smaller, more portable footprint. 

"Many users have gone to 24-27 inch or larger screens to accompany their laptop when they are at their desk," he added. "This allows them to have a larger screen when they are on the go."

Folding Notebooks

A new generation of foldable screens has also recently hit the market, with products such as the ASUS Zenbook 17 Fold OLED, allowing users to have a laptop, tablet, desktop, e-reader, and more in one package. 

“For users, a foldable or rollable screen offers the ability to multitask on a full-sized display without needing additional supporting devices,” Yen Hoang, a public relations manager for ASUS North America, told Lifewire in an email. “For example, the Zenbook 17 Fold OLED’s screen is 17 inches, yet it becomes compact, so it can be easily portable or used as a tablet. This new approach to computing gives users more power and flexibility to work and play in a way that suits their lifestyles.”

Another new foldable is Lenovo’s new X1 Fold which the company claims is the world’s lightest 16-inch laptop. Compared to previous folding laptops in the Lenovo Fold series, the new model features a 22% larger 16-inch folding OLED display, 25% thinner chassis, and thinner bezels. 

“Creating the world’s first foldable PC was a major technological challenge. Improving on that is a real achievement. We want the next-gen ThinkPad X1 Fold to be the benchmark for premium productivity, creativity, and enjoyment,” Jerry Paradise, the vice president of commercial product Center, Intelligent Devices Group at Lenovo, said in a news release. 

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Foldable computer.

Even bigger rollables may be on the way, as Brill predicted, external monitors or laptops with a deployable larger second screen using rollable technologies. He said that laptops with a larger pop-out screen in addition to their main display would also be useful.

Samsung recently showed off an experimental rollable display, although it only shows static images, which stretches from 13″ to 17″. There’s even speculation that Apple will soon get into the rollable game. Apple is likely to start selling a foldable iPad in 2024, the analyst firm CCS Insight said recently. The firm said that the iPhone would probably be around $2,500.

The cost of the rumored rollable iPhone highlights the high price tag of rollable or foldable gadgets. The new ThinkPad X1 Fold is $2499, for example. But Coughlin predicted that if rollable and foldable phones and other devices catch on, their production volume would increase, and thus their cost decrease. 

Also, Coughlin said, more apps will be written to take advantage of the flexible features of these device displays. The devices could evolve in new ways built around how people can use flexible displays. Flexible displays could also be incorporated into other things, such as clothing.

"Looking ahead, as this technology becomes more popular, advanced development could lead to lighter, more energy efficient, more flexible, and higher endurance display technology that could be used in other products," Coughlin added.

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