Oppo has been teasing a rollable phone over the past few months, and I was lucky enough to get my hands — and booty — on it.
Wait, what is the Oppo rollable?
Code named the Oppo X 2021, it’s a concept rollable device! Like the name suggests, the screen rolls outwards, converting it from a standard phone size into a mini tablet.
Already 2021 seems to be the year for rollable devices. In January LG showed off its own rollable, literally called the LG Rollable, at CES.
We don’t know when it will be out, but interestingly LG attached the tagline ‘hold your breath’ which seems to be cheekily indicating it may be sooner rather than later.
Comparatively, Oppo’s rollie boi is still very much in the development stages. The company hasn’t committed to a release date and it’s unclear if the phone I held will even be the final product.
But the difference is that I’ve actually held this one in my hands – and back pocket. And I have to say, it’s incredibly exciting.
A challenger appears
Over the past couple of years we’ve seen foldable phones make their way onto store shelves. Yet despite being a reality, they still seem kind of magical.
Despite being a cynical tech journalist, I can’t help feel a sense of childlike wonderment from the simple act of folding and opening a phone screen.
While they started out feeling like a bit of a gimmick, and had some teething issues, foldable phones are now finding their footing as incredibly practical devices.
Although they’re still incredibly pricey.
While it may have seemed like foldables would go unchallenged in market for awhile, it hasn’t taken long for an alternate tech to emerge in the space.
And if I may be frank, the Oppo rollable phone is sick. But this doesn’t surprise me. Oppo has always loved doing fun and innovative things with its phones, from shark fin pop-up cameras to the infamous nub.
So to see one of their upcoming projects in the fledgling stages was quite special, even if it was limited.
Did the camera work? No.
Could you test any app? Nyet
Can it do anything yet? Nie.
Does any of this matter? Absolutely not.
Hands on with the Oppo X 2021
Oppo’s concept rollable is just that — a concept. Really it was a chance for the company to show off a unique bit of hardware that not many people have gotten to play with yet.
I spent the vast majority of my time with Oppo simply swiping the side button of the device to watch and feel it expand and retract.
With little else to experience, I was able to focus on one of the most important aspects of this device — use and feel.
The phone itself goes from 6.7-inches to 7.4 inches when expanded. And while I have done my fair share of complaining about giant phones in the past, in this context it felt right. After all, you’re not going to buy a rollable phone/tablet if you don’t want something sizeable.
The rolling mechanism itself was easy to use and swift. To activate, you simply swipe up and down on a side button — no pressing down required.
When expanding and retracting the device was swift and smooth. It was mesmerising to watch and I lost count of how many times I did it.
While expanded it felt comfortable and light in the hand, which bodes well for streaming movies and gaming.
While there was a noticeable crease in the screen, this is par for the course with foldables and rollables. I didn’t find it to be overly prominent and it’s also not something that actually bothers me in these devices.
More importantly, it didn’t seem to be super visible when under lights. The last thing you want is to be staring at a huge crease all day.
I’m also happy to report that this one fits neatly into the back pocket of your jeans, which I was delighted to help model due to my distinct lack of shame.
Okay but what are the issues?
As its a concept phone that had no working apps to test, this is a tricky question. But a few things sprung to mind.
I can foresee the screen being very easy to scratch. Like similar foldables in market, the screen is comparatively delicate in this regard.
Unlike regular phones, gorilla glass and the like can’t be used. At least not yet.
Similarly, it’s going to be difficult to give this any kind of IP rating due to the moving parts. To be fair, this is the same for all foldables at the moment. They simply cannot be waterproof with the limited technology injected into them at this point of time. But I’m confident that will change in the future.
That being said, Oppo did tell me that it will be trying to get “an” IP rating on this phone, but what that will actually be remains to be seen.
Since we’re talking about how delicate the phone is, I also have no idea how one would be able to get a protective case on an expandable phone.
There’s no way this thing will be cheap, so Oppo is going to have to come up with a solution for its customers here. Fortunately, Oppo is one of the few phone manufacturers that still ships a case with its devices, so it could already have a plan in the works.
It’s difficult to definitively pass judgement on a piece of concept tech. Things could change and it was far from being the final product.
But I will say this. New form factors are always going to have challenges. We saw this with the foldables and other new types of phones in the preceding years. And that’s okay. What’s important here is innovation — as long as the idea has legs and respects the user, it’s a good thing.
In a world inundated with boring black phones, it’s always exciting to see something new that actually makes you feel something.
Getting to touch the Oppo rollable was a beautiful and wonderful opportunity to remove myself from the daily grind and remember the sheer joy that future tech can invoke.
I held the future in my hands and for that I am grateful.