Oppo's next foldable phone will have a rollable OLED display - but you can't buy it

Oppo X 2021
(Image credit: Oppo)

While foldable phones are the latest battleground for new smartphones to rival each other on, Oppo has another idea - the company just launched its new rollable smartphone.

As part of Inno Day, Oppo's annual event to show off its new technology, the company showed off its Oppo X 2021 rollable phone - it's worth pointing out this is a concept device, so you won't be able to buy it, but it's an interesting snapshot of the potential future of smartphones.

The Oppo X 2021, as the 'rollable phone' moniker suggests, starts as a 'standard' smartphone but the display unrolls to give you extra screen space if you need it. It starts with a 6.7-inch OLED display but when opened up that stretches to 7.4 inches.

We've seen this type of form factor before, as TCL has shown something similar, and LG TVs might soon use the technology too. It's an intriguing take on the 'foldable' spirit, and as Oppo points out, this take doesn't have the annoying 'crease' that actual foldable phones have in the middle of the screen, which improves the durability and feel of using the phone.

Other features of the Oppo X 2021 include a back that's designed to look similar whether the display is rolled or unrolled, so unrolling the screen doesn't open up structural issue or make the phone look worse.

Future tech

Oppo X 2021

(Image credit: Oppo)

Oppo unveiled the X 2021 rollable smartphone alongside its second-gen pair of AR glasses - also China-only - as well as some new tools for developers to improve AR.

As stated, this is a concept phone, so it likely won't go on sale - and even if it does it'll likely be China-exclusive, as that's where Oppo is based and the company often sells tech there that doesn't make it worldwide. 

A concept phone is a handset a company unveils that isn't intended for consumers, and is instead a snapshot of lots of new pieces of tech a company is working on. You can't buy it, but the features and design of the X 2021 might make their way into a future Oppo smartphone.

The Oppo X 2021 is an intriguing vision of the future of foldables - that kind of smartphone is still fairly new, but already companies are trying to find alternative ways of expanding screen space on phones that avoids the issues with foldable phones. Perhaps soon we'll actually be able to test out rollables to see how well they work.

Tom Bedford

Tom Bedford was deputy phones editor on TechRadar until late 2022, having worked his way up from staff writer. Though he specialized in phones and tablets, he also took on other tech like electric scooters, smartwatches, fitness, mobile gaming and more. He is based in London, UK and now works for the entertainment site What To Watch.

He graduated in American Literature and Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia. Prior to working on TechRadar, he freelanced in tech, gaming and entertainment, and also spent many years working as a mixologist.