While Motorola and Samsung continue struggling to deliver a foldable phone with a screen that doesn’t scratch, crack, or separate from the phone’s body easily, it looks like TCL may have an alternatives to foldables — rollables.

According to CNET, which obtained a set of images of a TCL concept phone with a roll-out display, the Chinese electronics company had planned to showcase the device at Mobile World Congress next week… until the show was cancelled.

So here’s the idea — at first glance, the device looks like a typical smartphone. There’s a large screen covering most of the front of the phone (with a hole punch cut-out for the front-facing cameras), and on the back there are four cameras.

But you can pull out the side of the phone to expand the screen and transform the mobile device into a tablet-sized gadget.

As CNET notes, this sort of design could theoretically do away with the crease found in recent foldables, and could perhaps lead to a sturdier design. But so far we’ve only seen rendered images and not real-world pictures. So it’s a bit early to say whether TCL’s concept device offers any actual advantages over foldables.

For now it’s not even clear that the device shown in the pictures really exists — or if it does, that it means TCL has any plans to bring such a device to market. But given the fragility of all foldable-screen devices to hit the streets so far, I’m going to remain skeptical about the durability of any rollable gadgets for the time being.

Meanwhile, I’m starting to see why Microsoft decided to opt for dual screens rather than a single flexible display for its upcoming Surface Duo smartphone and Surface Neo tablet/laptop devices.

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  1. Well. This would also be prone to scratching, I don’t they have a durable rolling glass cover after all.

    One possibility wood be that they have a glass cover on the always expired part but that would mess with the tactile experience (imagine dragging from one half to another in that scenario) and to a lesser degree the visual one (it would create an artificial “seam”with refraction).

    That said I would love it. I actually always appreciated the design of the communicators on the show “Earth: Final Conflict”. This seems like a more modern (albeit less durable) take on it.

    1. I wondered if I am the only one who awaits such devices to be available. Earth Final Conflict is almost here. 🙂

    2. Agreed.
      A phone with a slide-out chassis, and a screen that rolls out would actually be physically weaker than a fold-out phone. Sure the screen would be more protected when not in use. But when your actually carrying the device in your hand, or using it, isn’t actually less structurally sound.

      The best course of action is to continue to use “candybar” phones with flat glass fronts, metal sides, and a rear backplate made from something study (polycarbonate, aluminium, or a case). At least, until we can design a transparent compound that is as pleasant to use as glass (friction, clarity, hardness) but can bend at one point, so that we can have an outward-folding device, where a “phablet” is able to convert into “tablet” (somewhat like the Huawei Mate X Fold).

  2. 2011: Lets get rid of physical buttons for back and menu, less moving parts is more reliable
    2017: Lets get rid of the physical home button, capacitive buttons are even more reliable
    2020: Lets add as many moving parts as we can for features that nobody needs