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OPPO X 2021: Concept smartphone with roll display in hands-on

In November 2020, OPPO presented several new technologies and concepts at the OPPO Inno Days. The highlight was the OPPO X 2021, a concept smartphone with a retractable or rollable OLED display. OPPO Germany has now invited us to Düsseldorf and we were the first in Germany to take a first look at the OPPO X 2021. Is this the future?

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This is a video from our german YouTube channel. You can turn on english subtitles, which are automatically generated.

Rollable instead of foldable

After several manufacturers have already presented foldable smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy Fold 2 or concepts like the TCL Slide, it is now OPPO’s turn. They have introduced the OPPO X 2021 smartphone with a retractable display. The smartphone’s display diagonal increases from an already large 6.7 inches to a proud 7.4 inches via a “swipe”. This almost turns the smartphone into a small tablet. In practice, this should enable better and above all clearer multitasking. Especially for YouTube videos or movies, you simply have more space and a different aspect ratio.

OPPO X 2021 rollable display extends

This is triggered by a swipe gesture on the smartphone’s casing frame, which causes the integrated OLED display to roll out. If you swipe up, the screen extends, and if you swipe down again, the screen retracts. Rolling out works very well in practice, even though the fingerprint sensor does not register every swipe movement. When it detects it, the screen rolls out completely. If you hold the X 2021 a bit tighter, the mechanism refuses and retracts again. In advance, we had the information that the display does not have to extend to the full 7.4″, but that it can also be stopped at 7″, for example. However, this could not be confirmed to us and we unfortunately could not try it out on site. Extending and retracting takes not quite three seconds.

OPPO X 2021 Rollable Display retract

The big disadvantage of foldable smartphones are the creases that are caused by folding the smartphone. That is almost completely eliminated in this concept smartphone from OPPO. If you look closely, you can see a slight “crease”, but that is only visible from a sharp angle and when the display is turned off. However, this is much more pleasing than on the foldable smartphones.

OPPO X 2021 rollable smartphone display extended in hand

How does the OPPO X 2021 feel?

We only had about 30 minutes with the OPPO X 2021, but the concept smartphone feels surprisingly finished. It’s a bit thicker overall than a Xiaomi Mi 11 smartphone, for example, and kind of reminded me of the MAZE Alpha smartphones from a few years ago. It’s also far from an outdoor smartphone, yet the bezel around the display is a bit wider on all sides.

OPPO X 2021 rollable smartphone display retracted

Due to the retractable display, OPPO had to develop a dynamic case frame that enlarges with the display. The gaps for this are visible, but at least they were well concealed on the bottom and back.

OPPO X 2021 back

Only on the upper side can you immediately see that the edge is split. However, the diagonal on the back makes it look more like a design element instead of a necessary construction. It is also interesting that the USB-C port for charging the device is on the far right of the bottom.

OPPO X 2021 rollable smartphone case frame at the bottom

The OPPO X 2021 also surprises me on the software side. If you think about the Royole FlexPai at MWC 2019, the Color OS operating system of the X 2021 seems almost ready. If you extend the display, the home screen also adjusts and the icons move apart slightly. However, the operating system was completely in English and Chinese, which is why we could hardly try out any apps. Taking pictures also works thanks to the 48 MP camera, and we could at least look at our website in widescreen format in the browser. Only when I wanted to extend the display while taking pictures, the OPPO X 2021 crashed once.

OPPO X 2021 rollable smartphone display extended in hand

How does it work?

OPPO has applied for a total of 122 patents for the X 2021. Various technologies are essential for the implementation of this concept. OPPO installs two motors for this, which roll out the display together so as not to damage it. Thus, the pressure is evenly distributed and probably also ensures that the display would withstand a slight impact when it is extended.

OPPO X 2021 drive motors

The motors roll the flexible display over an axle on the left side, which has a diameter of 6.8 mm. The rolling avoids the aforementioned crease. However, more elasticity is needed so that the display can be bent. The manufacturer ensures this with the Warp Track display lamination, which is even partly made of steel and is only 0.1 mm thick in some places.

OPPO X 2021 axis

The screen also rests on a 2-in-1 plate, for which OPPO has come up with a special trick. This plate consists of several struts that align to the left and right in two segments when the display is extended and ensure an even weight distribution. However, only enough to leave a central axis in the middle so that the display doesn’t collapse. If you retract the screen again, a single surface is formed. All this is wrapped in the dynamic frame, which provides protection on the left and right. In the center, however, the case frame naturally remains thinner. However, there is no case for the phone so far.

OPPO X 2021 metal plate

According to OPPO, the mechanism has been tested for up to 100,000 times out. That translates into an average usage of five years, heavy users are supposed to get by with it for two to three years. I alone have probably taken care of a hundred times of extension now.

Will the OPPO X 2021 be launched?

The OPPO X 2021 is a concept smartphone that will unfortunately never find its way to us in this form. Concept smartphones are used to show technologies and to test where the market and smartphones could develop. And even if the X 2021 would appear like this, we would probably have to expect a price beyond the €2,000 mark.

Even if the X 2021 does not appear like this, I have to say that the smartphone was amazingly far and felt almost ready or usable. I like the whole concept much better than the foldables from Samsung or Huawei, precisely because they serve better as a “normal” smartphone due to the thinner thickness. In any case, I am curious whether OPPO will continue down this path. We would hope so! What do you think of the rollable smartphones? Do you find them more useful than foldable smartphones?

At this point, we would also like to thank OPPO Germany for this unique opportunity!

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Thorben

My special interests are smartphones from China and I am always keen to discover new smartphone accessories like smartwatches and headphones. 

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