Innovations arise day after day in the field of consumer electronics. They may seem mundane to you today, but billions of people use smartphones every day, things we could only imagine decades ago. As if that wasn’t overwhelming enough, foldable smartphones are becoming more mainstream, and rollable devices may be just over the horizon. A handful of phone brands are now competing to launch the first rollable smartphone, and one of them is Samsung. We only heard a brief word this spring about a very special device that could be in the spotlight for some time this summer. It seems its first rollable devices may be here sooner than expected. That begs the question – will we see a rollable phone at Samsung’s Galaxy Unpacked event?
The short answer is “probably not”. Samsung will officially unveil its flagship smartphones, the Galaxy Z Fold 4 and Galaxy Z Flip 4, along with other devices like the Galaxy Watch 5 series and Galaxy Buds 2 Pro at its Galaxy Unpacked event. There was no trace of “rollable” in relation to the event.
what there was was a spring rumor about a special device called “N4” or “Project Diamond” unrelated to Flip 4 and Fold 4 that may or may not appear at Unpacked. It may have been described as a foldable device rather than a rollable one, but it was agreed that it probably won’t go on sale this year.
Before we get too far with the “rollable smartphone” talk, let’s not mislead you on what to expect.
As with any good company with large teams of designers and engineers, Samsung is still making its presence known in the space. SamMobile reported back in April on one of its patents that presented a potential rollable phone design. Samsung also showcased rollable displays at the Society of Information Displays’ Display Week in May (via Android Authority), with some prototypes designed similar to the patents mentioned above.
These so-called “Flex Slidable” form factors feature an expandable body that can reveal all or a smaller portion of the display when the device contracts – a scrolling area inside would store the unused portion of the panel.
Ultimately, however, we’re not confident that Samsung will have a finished rollable smartphone product. There are a number of stages in the development and production processes for any new product where information could be more easily leaked. The lack of this information points to a whole lot of nothing.
One of the major technical hurdles has to do with the expansion and contraction of the device. With internal hardware designed for the smallest possible iteration of the extensible form, we consider challenges in cabling between parts (more cables, more risks of failure, less power), durability of the actual components, and thermal shell among others. But as far as we can tell, this seems to be Samsung’s approach, as well as that of the broader competition, to bringing rollable displays to smartphones, and it’s a safe bet that a Flex Slideable phone or phablet (or both) will show up at some point.
However, we wouldn’t be surprised if such a device shows up at Unpacked. Businesses always need to do marketing, so this should come as no surprise. Oppo and LG were the first to fire up tangible rollable concepts in 2021. However, Oppo’s phone didn’t meet the company’s lifecycle goal of surviving 200,000 device expansions and contractions during its testing period (via The Verge). And lest we forget, LG Mobile went out of business last April.
Sure, Apple and Chinese display maker TCL may have their own intellectual property, but their products’ footsteps haven’t been that exciting to follow, especially considering no one has bothered to enter the actual foldable phone market yet, let alone Google.
Samsung has a great opportunity to enlighten the crowd with a tantalizing nod to what it believes a “rollable phone” should be. Will it cost a lot? Certainly. But this detail lands far below what many actually want to know: when is it coming? If the company hits that moment during Unpacked on August 10th, we wouldn’t be surprised. If it doesn’t, we may have a problem here.