Rollable OLED displays are a great way to wow crowds at trade shows, but companies need to think smaller so this technology to reach its potential. We need small rollable displays for portable devices, not huge rollable TVs.
Rollable TVs Are a Curiosity
Thanks to the sheer thinness of OLED screen technology and advancements in thin glass, it’s possible to make televisions that roll up into a base unit. The main appeal of this is that you can hide a TV within the room, only unrolling it when you actually have to use it. This is the sort of thing that appeals to wealthy customers who put a high priority on aesthetics, but it’s not really something general users are clamoring for. Especially not at the eye-watering prices these televisions currently go for.
To be fair, the first generation of HD and later UHD flat panel displays were also incredibly expensive for early adopters and we have no doubt that rollable TVs will come down in price over time, but is this really the best use of the technology?
There’s a Market for Portable Screens
Desktop users are no stranger to dual-screen productivity arrangements on desktop systems, but as we become more mobile and take our computers with us everywhere, screen real estate becomes harder to come by.
We aren’t strangers to, for example, using an iPad as a second screen thanks to the Sidecar feature in macOS. You don’t need to buy an entire tablet, either, there are many portable monitors that are thin enough to slip into your laptop bag or sleeve.
This makes it relatively easy to pop up a dual-monitor system anywhere you can find a flat surface Whether that’s in a coffee shop or in your hotel room.
We Can Go Bigger (By Going Smaller)
Portable screens are already a great solution, but they have a major limitation when it comes to size. Generally, you can only get them in the same sizes that laptop screens are made. That makes sense, since they use the same parts, and so most are going to be 13, 14, 15.6, and 17.3 inches in size.
If rollable screen makers focused on making portable rollable screens, we could have larger format screens that are still practical to carry in a bag when we leave home. Imagine unfurling a 27″ ultrawide screen in your hotel room, taking advantage of the productivity (and entertainment) advantages such screens would provide.
Even desktop users may appreciate a desktop-class rollable screen that you can put away when you don’t need it and take with you wherever you go. So that the same monitor you use in the office or at home is the one you use on the road.
Can It Even Be Done?
It’s easy to wish for a particular device or application of a specific technology, but if this is such an obvious use for rollable displays, why haven’t we seen it yet? We sort of have seen it in the form of a smartphone prototype that expands by rolling (not folding) to make a display larger or smaller. The Oppo X is one example of a concept device that uses this technology. TCL also has similar concepts, closer to the scale we envision in this article, but as part of a mobile device rather than just a display.
A rollable portable display would essentially be a rollable TV but scaled down to computer monitor sizes. Those large televisions need intricate mechanical components and interlocking plates to make sure the screen rolls at the perfect angle and doesn’t break. How much of that is feasible or necessary for a portable ultrawide display is unclear.