The idea of the foldable phone means a bigger tablet screen can unfold from a smaller phone screen, but Oppo’s latest concept is more about rolling, less about folding.
Even though foldables are still really new, they’re also clearly an exciting technology, as smartphone makers work to find a middle ground convergence point phones and tablet computers.
Imagine if you didn’t need to bring a tablet or a laptop around with you, and could rely on your phone to expand and do double duty. That is essentially one of the promises of a bigger phone with a foldable screen, with opening the phone out from a small display to a bigger one granting that possibility.
And while 2019 and 2020 were supposed to be years where the foldable should have come alive, we’re still really only seeing a few brands offer an idea of a foldable phone: Samsung has two in the pocketable Galaxy Z Flip and the more tablet-styled Galaxy Z Fold 2, Motorola has its own pocket-friendly Razr, and Huawei has a large phone tablet without the Google Play Store in the Mate Xs range.
As of yet, there’s not really been anything from other makers, but Oppo looks set to change that some time in the future, as it tries out a different type of foldable, with no so much a “fold”, but more of a “roll”.
That’s what Oppo is showing off at its innovation showcase Oppo Inno Day 2020, with the company announcing a couple of gadgets designed to deliver aspects of what the company is working on, and one of them takes the concept of the foldable in a different direction, rolling out the screen from the body’s design, rather than folding it out using a hinge.
It’s a deliberately different take on the foldable, and one that still looks to offer a big display, but without the big hinge of others, as Oppo experiments with a motorised screen tray that expands before your very eyes.
We’re going to have to call this thing a “rollable”, because that’s kind of what it is, though it fits in with foldables given the whole expectation that it’s a phone that expands to be a big one.
And it’s something entirely new in phones, too, with the Oppo X 2021 using a special custom-made rolling system to expand the screen, a plate technology to keep it rigid and stable, and a design Oppo calls “Warp Track” to roll out a screen laminate from the inside a little like a garage door, stretching the phone’s screen against the body and loading the extended screen into place.
The result is a phone concept that delivers a 6.7 inch phone screen when used in standard phone configuration, and yet expands to as large as 7.4 inches when the Oppo X 2021 rolls its display into a tablet style.
It’s not the only concept Oppo used its event to talk about, with a pair of augmented reality glasses shown off, as well.
The pair of glasses is something Oppo has a rather simple name for, the Oppo AR Glass 2021, and basically offers a 117 gram pair of glasses with two fisheye cameras, one depth camera, and an RGB light and colour sensor to analyse the world, and provide augmented reality updates inside the glasses, with interaction also able to happen.
They’ll still likely need a phone to connect to what’s hwappenjin g, with Oppo’s AR Glass 2021 working in its tests connected to its Find X2 Pro, allowing the glasses to be somewhat light and play nicely with more extensive hardware for processing, while also using the phone to control what you see through the glass.
It’s a concept that is still relatively far off, though, and may not be within reach of most people just yet, especially since both phone and glasses are needed to make this gadget worthwhile.
That’s distinct from the Oppo X 2021 rollable phone, which could become the sort of flagship device that keeps bigger phones thin without the need for a large and unwieldy hinge.
However the Oppo X rollable also doesn’t have a release date, and may not make it out until later next year, if it even happens then at all. Right now, neither of these cool ideas have Australian pricing or local availability, so if you’re intrigued by either, you’ll just have to wait and see what 2021 offers.