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Forget foldables, LG will launch the most daring smartphone ever made next year

Updated Jul 3rd, 2020 8:16AM EDT
LG Rollable Phone
Image: LG

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  • An LG phone with a rollable display is currently being prototyped for a 2021 launch, a report from Korea said.
  • The device is called “B Project” internally. The phone will feature an OLED screen that’s rollable at the sides and can be expanded when needed.
  • LG already launched a rollable TV, but making a rollable smartphone will be a much more difficult task when it comes to durability.

LG has been going out of its way in recent years to repel customers who may be interested in its Android devices. In 2018 it cloned the iPhone X notch design while claiming it wasn’t doing it. A year later, it launched two flagships at the same time, featuring a separate set of features. One of them was especially hideous, the LG V50, with its asymmetric second display. This year, LG improved the dual-screen concept with a V60 that looks much better than the original, but killed the LG G flagship line and replaced it with a mid-range LG Velvet (above) that’s nowhere near the iPhone 11 or Galaxy S20 killer you’d have expected from the company. As if that’s not enough to send customers to your rival, LG is also developing a dual-screen smartphone featuring a primary display that swivels sideways, perpendicular to the secondary screen that becomes a keyboard. It will absolutely not sell.

There may be light at the end of the tunnel in all of this LG smartphone strategy madness thanks to a daring “B Project” design that’s supposedly coming next year. That’s a phone with a rollable screen, and the codename has nothing to do with the fact that LG’s mobile division posted 20 straight quarters of losses so far.

B Project will be a phone unlike anything in the business so far, a phone that sounds so futuristic that it is hard to take seriously given where foldables are right now. As a reminder, the launch of phones with foldable displays has been anything but smooth, and that’s because of the foldable part. Glass tech isn’t in a place that would allow vendors to make devices featuring screens as sturdy as traditional smartphones. The Ultra-Thin Glass on Samsung foldables is so fragile that the Fold 2 will not be able to support a stylus. Then there’s the hinge mechanism, which can allow the ingress of debris or dust particles in some of these phones, even the new Z Flip.

With that in mind, B Project will have a rollable display, according to The Elec, and the phone will be launched next year. The phone is named after the company CEO Kwon Bong-seok, the report notes. Velvet was previously codenamed “Cayman Islands,” and the horizontal phone is called “Wing.” A flagship coming in the first half of 2021 is called “Rainbow.”

LG Wing
LG Wing concept: Dual-display smartphone with swiveling screen. Image source: ETNews

LG has started production of the prototype at its factory in Pyeongtaek, The Elec says. The screen will extend sideways when needed. The rollable display will be OLED, as expected, which can bend and roll as desired. LG made its own rollable TVs, so it does have some experience with the technology. It’s one thing to create a rollable device that stays in a single place, and quite another to make a phone.

Durability is the primary concern for such a device. The Elec says that a rollable display isn’t more challenging to make than a foldable one. Like foldables, rollable screens will need to withstand pressure and dissipate it to a broader screen area. The design and materials used for the foldable screen will need to support the panel when it’s rolled out.

The phone’s design hasn’t leaked, but The Elec seems to indicate the phone will have a scroll-like appearance. The screen will extend sideways, “as the display rolled at the sides will unroll.” The design does sound more exciting than anything did in recent years with its flagship handsets. If successful, rollable phones would let you quickly move between smartphone and tablet mode. The technology could also work on bigger devices. If. It. Works.

Sadly, there’s no point getting too excited about B Project for the time being. Not to mention that phones with rollable screens will probably be even more expensive than foldables. All that R&D and manufacturing won’t be cheap.

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.