OPPO has never released a smartwatch of its own, but the BBK Electronics-owned company looks to in the future, if a new foldable smartwatch patent means anything.
The foldable smartwatch patent, filed in mid-2018 with the World Intellectual Property Office (WIPO) and published in September 2018, showcases a smartwatch with a flexible screen. The smartwatch in question would have a rectangular band and watch display, in line with one smartwatch design. Many smartwatch OEMs are making circular displays for their smartwatches, in accordance with traditional, classic non-smart watch design.
The smartwatch would fold towards the back, with the extra display part being stored in the watch case until the user needs it. When the user is ready to use the extra display (hence, flexible), the user need only slide out the additional screen real estate. The extra display increases the viewing area by 200%, giving the user three times as much screen space as before.
There are two smartwatch modes on OPPO's foldable smartwatch: a folded-in mode and an unfolded mode. This indicates that the UI will adjust to the mode of the user at any given time, in the same way that UIs adjust in portrait and landscape modes on smartphones.
Chinese Android OEM OPPO, a brand of BBK Electronics (who also owns Android brands Vivo, OnePlus, and RealMe), looks to stay on the cutting edge of tech recently with its in-display selfie camera announcement. When it comes to the smartwatch market, though, OPPO has been somewhat behind. The company planned to release a smartwatch in 2015 but never released one.
The smartwatch market is starting to take off, though, with total US sales in 2018 rising 61% more than in 2017. This means that the smartwatch market is starting to become a trending category for smartphone OEMs, including OPPO, which makes it a good time to prepare a smartwatch. OPPO has already laid the groundwork with this foldable smartwatch patent.
What makes this a great time to work on a foldable smartwatch is that first, the smartwatch market is starting to see some serious demand. Whenever new technology debuts on the market, the consumer population finds it new and tends to shun it. Only after a few years do consumers give new technologies a try, adopt them, and spread their reputation by word-of-mouth.
Next, though, the foldable category has arrived on the smartphone market. Though Samsung has recalled its Galaxy Fold once and said it rushed the product to market to ward off Huawei, Samsung has ushered in a new era where foldable design is now the "next big thing," to use Samsung's famous marketing phrase. Huawei is said to have a foldable Huawei Mate X on the way, and other companies including Xiaomi look to enter into the foldables category.
While everyone is considering foldable smartphones/tablets, few are considering or have looked into the idea of foldable smartwatches that feature flexible displays. OPPO could take its 2018 patent and capitalize on this untapped market by setting the pace for foldable or flexible wearables.
At the same time, though, sliding parts such as displays or even cameras in smartphones bring with them the risk of malfunction. At some point, continued wear and tear on the device or the constant sliding out of a display could lead to the display getting stuck in the outward position. Perhaps it can be said that manufacturing warranties will have to catch up to technological advancement and provide protection and coverage for flexible displays and flexible display malfunctions.