We know where we are with foldable phones like the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3: you open and close it like a book, and the display adjusts accordingly. But what if that foldable... was also a rollable?
That's the idea put forward in a new patent filed by Samsung (via 91mobiles), which depicts a phone with a screen that opens out like a foldable, but also extends like a rollable phone – something like the Oppo X 2021.
The "electronic device capable of folding and sliding operations" combines the two mechanisms in one fairly chunky-looking chassis, and it would be quite an engineering feat if Samsung were to pull this one off.
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Roll it, fold it
It seems the screen on this device can be stretched out and extended in one direction, and then the edge of that screen also folds over to some extent. However we don't see the fold go all the way over and close shut in the patent diagrams.
That suggests this is a device that would help with certain situations where extra display space is required at a different angle: watching movies for example, or making video calls. It's an intriguing concept that we haven't really seen so far.
As ever with patents though, this is no guarantee that a finished product will ever come to market. Patents are a good indication of what manufacturers are thinking about, but those plans don't always come to fruition for all kinds of reasons.
Analysis: here come the rollables
Samsung has already been teasing the idea of rollable displays on its devices, and if you've got a good memory then you might recall that we saw a patent for a rollable phone from Samsung all the way back in January. Is this the sort of technology that we can expect to see in the Galaxy Z Fold 4?
While some rollable phones have appeared on the scene already, they're by no means as widely available as foldables. The LG Rollable was shown off in prototype form but never saw the light of day as an actual product, for example.
Hats off to TCL, which has put together a phone with a folding and rolling display much like the one outlined in this new patent from Samsung. Again though, the device hasn't been put into mass production or gone on sale to consumers.
It's clear that the underlying mechanisms still need some work. As with foldables, rollables will gradually get better and more reliable over time, and then you can expect to see a number of them arrive at once – giving you a phone you can put in your pocket but that still expands to the size of a tablet.
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Dave is a freelance tech journalist who has been writing about gadgets, apps and the web for more than two decades. Based out of Stockport, England, on TechRadar you'll find him covering news, features and reviews, particularly for phones, tablets and wearables. Working to ensure our breaking news coverage is the best in the business over weekends, David also has bylines at Gizmodo, T3, PopSci and a few other places besides, as well as being many years editing the likes of PC Explorer and The Hardware Handbook.