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Hands-on with Motorola’s rollable OLED concept phone

Published Feb 26th, 2023 6:00PM EST
Motorola's rollable smartphone shown at MWC 2023.
Image: Chris Smith, BGR

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Lenovo might not have held a big press conference on the Sunday before MWC 2023 kicks off, but there’s no question it’ll make some waves at the event thanks to its prototype devices that feature rollable displays. The company showed the media two exciting concepts ahead of the show: a Lenovo laptop with a rollable display and a Motorola Android smartphone concept with a rollable screen.

The handset is a fascinating device, one we weren’t even allowed to hold during our brief session with Lenovo. The Motorola rollable smartphone also looks rather fragile, which would explain why the company is taking extra care with it.

The Motorola rollable smartphone doesn’t have a commercial name. There’s no telling when this gadget will hit stores, as Motorola isn’t ready to make any commitments. Like the Lenovo rollable laptop, the smartphone needs more development before it’s available commercially.

Display rolled down on the Motorola rollable smartphone concept.
Display rolled down on the Motorola rollable smartphone concept. Image source: Chris Smith, BGR

The prototype I saw at MWC is a compact handset featuring an all-screen display that many people would love. Push a button, and the screen extends from 5 inches to 6.5 inches, which is about the size you get from most smartphones these days.

Interestingly, the screen also rolls down to reveal a selfie camera when you need it. So we’re not looking at a hole-punch OLED design here.

Moreover, the bottom part of the screen doesn’t roll internally. Instead, it extends to the backside. And it can remain functional, depending on how you use the handset.

Display rolled up on the Motorola rollable smartphone concept.
Display rolled up on the Motorola rollable smartphone concept. Image source: Chris Smith, BGR

You can use the rear screen to take selfies with the main dual-lens camera on the back, for example. The rear part of the display will also show notifications, like the cover display of a foldable phone.

Another neat trick concerns the wallpaper. When the screen rolls up and down, the wallpaper will change accordingly with a neat animation. Widgets might also support similar functionality.

The bottom side of the rollable display becomes a rear-facing screen.
The bottom side of the rollable display becomes a rear-facing screen. Image source: Chris Smith, BGR

Aside from using a button to roll up the screen, the phone will do it automatically in some cases. Like starting a YouTube clip and then flipping the screen in landscape mode. The phone will know to turn the image and extend the screen for you. More applications should support the feature whenever the phone is ready to debut commercially.

The phone will know to retract the screen if it determines the handset is falling. Hopefully, this will prevent accidental damage to the display assembly, which is incredibly thin, as you can see in the photo below.

Motorola is also devising a screen protector for the handset, which will be tricky, as the screen rolls all the way to the back.

The thin rollable display on Motorola's Android smartphone concept.
The thin rollable display on Motorola’s Android smartphone concept.

Finally, Motorola said it brought its various Moto Actions gestures to the rollable display, such as twisting the wrist to bring up the camera. Or bring up the selfie camera on the front.

As exciting as this might sound, we’re still looking at a concept device. Motorola isn’t ready to commit to a launch schedule for the rollable smartphone.

Interestingly, the Motorola rollable phone leaked last year, although we didn’t have images of the handset at the time.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.

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