Folding phones have been around for a few years now, while several companies have begun exploring devices which ‘roll’ to extend the total screen area.
But what if you could have both? That’s what Samsung is attempting with its latest CES concept, the Flex Hybrid. This prototype device has a 10.5in OLED display that can both fold in half and stretch to become a 12.4in panel.
The latter turns its boxy 4:3 aspect ratio into a much more comfortable 16:9, making it well suited for content consumption. A small increase to the total screen size might feel unnecessary, but this is something current book-style foldables (such as the Galaxy Z Fold 4) struggle with.
Combining folding and rolling technology on a single device sounds revolutionary, but Samsung isn’t the first company to try it. In March 2022, TCL revealed a 10in device which could also fold and slide to become a larger screen. It even featured a 240Hz refresh rate – double what most folding phones offer.
However, this isn’t Samsung’s first attempt at a rollable. Last May, the company showed off the ‘Galaxy Z Slide’ prototype, a compact pocketable phone that can extend upwards to become the 6.7in size we’re so familiar with.
Of course, the key question now is when a device with this form factor will come to market. Durability is a major obstacle, with a second moving part that could easily wear out or become faulty over time.
There’s also the question of price, with existing book-style foldables still significantly more expensive than most regular smartphones. A device that folds and rolls may well improve the user experience, but it’ll be a while before the technology becomes affordable enough to appeal to mainstream consumers.
If you’re looking for a device that might be available to buy sooner, Samsung has revealed two other 17in slidable concepts. The Flex Slidable Solo extends the screen on one side, but the Flex Slidable Duet can expand in both directions. At its maximum, the latter turns a 13 panel into a 17.3in one.
There’s been no mention of it yet, but hopefully Samsung is also working on a laptop with a folding screen to rival Asus and Lenovo. Both companies released big-screen Windows devices that fold in half in 2022, and there are rumours more companies will join them this year. That should help iron out some of the current hardware issues and drive down prices.
Until then, your best bet for mobile productivity is a folding phone that can become a tablet or tablet with detachable keyboard.