Why LG’s Sliding Phone Could Be Awesome

We can roll with it

Key Takeaways

  • LG received a patent for a phone with a display that “rolls” out by sliding the ends of the device.
  • The design appears to be the latest product to come out of LG’s Explorer Project, following the LG Wing.
  • The phone could give other folding phones some stiff competition with its intuitive design.
Concept images of the LG Foldable.

A new LG patent filing for a phone with a roll-out display puts a new spin on expandable cell phones, and could easily give foldable models a run for their money if it becomes reality. 

If the word "sliding" digs up memories of that old Nokia phone that expands to reveal a keyboard, think again—LG’s new phone might have a flexible OLED screen that actually gets bigger or smaller as you slide frames in and out on either side. In addition to providing a unique way to expand or retract a screen at a moment’s notice, the design has potential to avoid some of the documented durability issues with folding screens.

"The use of a retractable screen is extra durable, compared to all folding models that are currently available," Amsterdam-based tech website LetsGoDigital writes in its report about the design. "As these devices always bend at one specific point, the screen is most vulnerable at the folding line."

Expanding Options

The design is now known as "Project B," but could be called LG Rollable or LG Slide. It looks like users could seamlessly transition between using the device as a phone, tablet and apparently something in between if only one side’s frame is pulled out. The differing sizes appear in renderings crafted by LetsGoDigital, which first spotted the World Intellectual Property Organization patent filing. The phone manufacturer also filed a US patent application for the technology, published in September.

This isn’t the first time that LG or its competitors have seriously considered a rolling design for electronics. After all, this is the company that recently unveiled a rollable TV that slickly disappears into its base. Chinese electronics company TCL also revealed a sliding concept phone in March, although it is unclear whether it would be available for consumers anytime soon. 

Why LG Slide Is So Cool 

If well-executed, this rolling-screen device could have a big advantage over folding phones for not just its durability, but its familiarity. The experience of using a smartphone and tablet is intuitive, whereas reviewers have knocked some of the folding designs for added weight and creases in the middle of the screen (although some of these issues seem to be improving with new models). 

LG Slide Out Phone 3D Rendering

If LG’s rollable device displays nicely and looks cohesive, the advantage of being able to quickly change the screen’s size by simply pulling out one or both of its panels would likely provide more versatility over some of the folding phone models. For example, the Samsung Galaxy Fold 2 looks pretty cool when it opens like a book into a mini tablet, but seems noticeably bulky when closed. 

The new LG concept would provide lots of screen when you need it and go back to the size of a standard phone when you don’t, which can eliminate some of the awkwardness of trying to carry out tasks like texting or taking photos with a device that doesn’t easily fit into the palm of your hand.

LG Rolling Out Innovation

Project B looks like the latest LG effort to innovate on tried-and-true smartphone designs to make something truly fresh, rather than just providing minor updates to the same rectangle design. CNet caught a teaser for what looks to be this design at the end of LG’s launch video for its Explorer Project. The first product to come out of that initiative is the LG Wing, which features a twisting dual display that expands into a "T" shape to facilitate multiple tasks at once like watching a video and messaging. 

"Let’s be honest—over the last few years, newly-launched phones have been slightly-improved updates from the previous version’s specs, with mostly the same design, even while demand for differentiated and personalized experiences has increased," LG Electronics UK Department Leader Andrew Coughlin said in a Sept. video introducing the LG Wing and Explorer Project.

At this point we don’t know when Project B might hit the market, although a report from Korea’s The Elec suggests it could be ready as soon as March. The phone’s price is also unknown, but it’s unlikely to be cheap due to the innovative design. Other phones with unorthodox screens are definitely priced at a premium. The LG Wing, for example, will reportedly go for $1,000, whereas most of the planned or available foldable phones carry price tags of about $1,500-2,000. 

LG’s new rolling-display phone probably won’t be for everyone due to its price. However, it does give us—and the market—some ideas for what a truly seamless all-in-one device might look like. If successful, the new design could usher in a new class of flexible phone screens that expand from the sides as opposed to folding or swiveling. For now, we’ll just have to wait for LG to officially unveil the product to see whether the idea works as intuitively as it appears on paper.

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