We finally know how Oppo’s crazy rollable phone works

  • The Oppo X 2021 is a rollable phone concept that Oppo first unveiled in November.
  • The Chinese smartphone vendor unveiled its new long-distance wireless charging technology at MWC 2021 Shanghai, using an Oppo X concept device to demo it.
  • Oppo also explained the various technologies required to make a rollable phone work.

The LG Rollable phone made waves at CES 2021 in early January, where LG confirmed the device is real and will come out this year. Reports earlier this year claimed that LG wasn’t going forward with the Rollable as it considered selling its mobile business. LG was quick to deny those rumors. But LG’s Rollable isn’t the only rollable phone.

Chinese smartphone maker Oppo showed off the Oppo X 2021 rollable back in November. This week, Oppo unveiled its Wireless Air Charging technology that can recharge a mobile device 10cm away from the charger. Oppo used the rollable concept to demonstrate the technology. And the smartphone vendor has also revealed the various innovations that make the Oppo X 2021 possible.

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The Oppo X 2021 allows the user to pick the size of the display. When the display is rolled in, the phone offers a 6.7-inch display that occupies almost the entire front panel. The display can also be extended up to 7.4 inches. Strangely, there’s no selfie cam anywhere in sight. Given that the entire display has to move back and forth, it’s unclear where a front-facing camera would be placed. There’s no secondary display on the back either.

Oppo X 2021 with the screen retracted (left) and fully rolled out (right). Image source: Oppo

A button on the side of the phone allows the user to turn it on and off. Sliding the button up and down initiates the rolling of the screen. The OLED display bends around a 6.8mm axis, with nearly half of the OLED screen being stored inside the phone when the Oppo X 2021 is used in 6.7-inch mode. Oppo has placed caterpillar tracks (called Warp Track) made of steel under the screen to allow the display to move with ease.

Image shows the Oppo X 2021’s caterpillar track placed under the OLED screen. Image source: Oppo

That axis size might increase the phone’s thickness, but it ensures the display doesn’t crease after rolling and retracting. Two separate motors inside the phone allow the screen to roll and unroll. Oppo explains that both motors work in unison so that stress is equally distributed as the screen moves to prevent damage.

The two motors that roll the screen up and down are placed at the top and bottom of the handset. Image source: Oppo

Under the screen, the Oppo X 2021 features a 2-in-1 Plate that supports the display. The plate is made of two comb-like structures that sustain each side half of the screen. When the screen retracts, the two plates form a single surface that continues to support the screen.

Image shows the 2-in-1 Plate that supports the two halves of the screen when the Oppo X is rolled out. Image source: Oppo

Oppo says on the Oppo X 2021 website that the rollable phone “redefines the inner dynamics of mobile devices by optimizing the layout for cameras, batteries, speakers and even antennas, unlocking new possibilities for future smartphone form factors and the way we use our phones.” But there’s no telling when or if this device will launch.

Oppo has at least two more elements of the rollable phone to explain. Aside from selfies, we also need to know how durable the display is. Oppo doesn’t mention the type of screen it uses for the OLED panel. It can’t be glass, as glass doesn’t bend that way. So it has to be plastic, which could be more prone to damage.

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Chris Smith started writing about gadgets as a hobby, and before he knew it he was sharing his views on tech stuff with readers around the world. Whenever he’s not writing about gadgets he miserably fails to stay away from them, although he desperately tries. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.