Oppo Shows ‘Expanding Phone’ Prototype

Oppo has become the first to demonstrate a working prototype of a device with a rollable screen, which expands and contracts on demand.

The company, one of China’s largest smartphone makers, said its Oppo X 2021 represented the third generation of smartphones using flexible-screen technology, after folding devices from the likes of Samsung and Huawei.

It said the design, which rolls and unrolls the OLED screen around a 6.8mm axis, allows it to bend without leaving visible creases.

The company introduced the Oppo X 2021 at its Inno Day 2020 in November of last year and is now allowing reviewers to try it hands-on.

Working prototype

Several reviewers, including the BBC, have now posted videos showing how the Oppo X 2021 works.

When in its most compact form, the device looks like a standard smartphone with a 6.7-inch screen.

But swiping up on the power button activates an internal motor that expands the device to a maximum of 7.4 in, allowing it to function as a tablet.

Swiping down on the button or double-clicking it causes the motor to retract the screen to its original state.

Previous flexible-screen phones could also provide a tablet-like experience, but did so by folding and unfolding like a book.

Oppo says it is working on a model that would allow the user to halt the expansion or retraction at any point, so that the screen could be anywhere from 6.7 in to 7.4 in, but reviewers said current prototypes don’t support the feature.

Rollable display

The company’s Color OS version of Android has been modified to support the variable-width screen, adjusting its layout in real-time.

A feature called Parallel Space Mode, for instance, provides dual-screen functionality when the display is expanded.

Oppo said it uses a special flexible laminate to protect the screen and a flexible substrate to support the screen when it’s in different positions.

Early reviewers said the prototype works well, but noted that it is at an early stage of development, and is notably missing volume buttons and a selfie camera.

Oppo has not yet given any indication of when it might put the Oppo X 2021 into production, and there’s no guarantee it will ever do so.

Matthew Broersma

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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