LG is considering a new type of phone that would unfold and roll up in a fashion that's not entirely different to a parchment scroll, according to newly emerged intellectual property documentation reviewed by Android Headlines. The firm was recently awarded two patented designs in total and both cover an apparently identical technology with just one or two exceptions. The latter of the designs much more closely resembles a scroll, with two cylindrical housing units that hold what appears to be a flexible display between them when stretched out. For the design filed first by the company, the housing units are rectangular and appear to be slightly smaller. Those would come together to form a wider rectangle when the display is not out. In both cases, the screen between the two ends is described as rolling up when not in use.
Background: LG isn't the first company to approach flexible smartphone displays from an angle focusing on making the resulting device scrollable and easily pocketable. Samsung has considered the concept for several years now and has released concept videos in the past teasing what such a device might look like — although generally in a more tablet-like format. The Korean even recently received its own patent bearing a remarkable similarity to the latest from LG with the exception of its square shape and dependence on magnets to maintain rigidity. Samsung's design also contained language indicating that a fingerprint scanner may be incorporated in its design if it ever makes its way to market. Moreover, the long-time LG rival already has plans to reveal a foldable smartphone at some point in 2019 with a working flexible display shown in a mystery device at SDC 2018.
At the same time, LG also holds more patents for flexible display uses as of just a few months ago and has already shown that it is approaching market-readiness for consumer devices based around screens that roll up. Specifically, the company has repeatedly shown televisions that can roll up at various mobile and technology events around the world. Those televisions are presently more of an oddity than being ready to put in consumers hands but show the extent to which LG has explored the possibilities so far. The primary challenge in rollable displays stems from the bend radius that can be frequently and persistently withstood by the glass or other materials used. A display upscaled to the size of even a standard television can have a comparatively wide radius that doesn't need to bend as much to save a massive amount of space. Smartphones will obviously require a much tighter radius to fit into a pocket.
Impact: The recently awarded designs were filed some time ago in early 2016. So LG appears to have a headstart in terms of phones that scroll too but its own patents, in this case, don't appear to be as detailed as Samsung's. That could be due to a decision by the company to compartmentalize its designs and inventions across multiple filings, adding a level of obscurity to its projects. Conversely, LG may have just not arrived at a working design that it is willing to finalize yet. In any case, with 2019 heralding the beginning of the folding smartphone era, it may not be too much longer before designs such as those covered in the filing begin appearing in real-world announcements.