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Roll up, roll up: Lenovo shows off ThinkBook laptop and Moto smartphone with rollable OLED displays

Lenovo’s rollable concept laptop is completely bonkers, but I like it

Lenovo has form for creating laptops with folding screens but MWC 2023 sees the first time it has dabbled in rollable screen technology, unveiling not one but two concept devices with rollable – not folding – displays: a laptop and a smartphone.

The laptop, complete with the ThinkBook logo on the lid and finished in a smart-looking matte grey finish, was unveiled alongside an Android Moto smartphone, also with a rollable screen and I had the chance to get a brief hands on with both at a behind-closed-doors preview event at MWC 2023. Off the two devices, however, it was the laptop that stole the show.

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Lenovo’s rollable screen laptop: How does it work?

As you can see from the photographs on this page, when you first encounter the rollable ThinkBook looks justlike a regular clamshell portable. It’s perhaps a little more chunky than the new Lenovo ThinkPad Z13 or the Samsung Galaxy Book 3 Pro but, otherwise, everything is pretty standard.

Tucked away on the right-hand edge, however, is a small button that sets the screen in motion, slowly extending upwards, powered by two motors, to create the tallest screen you’ve ever seen on a laptop.

Press the button again and motors go into reverse, pulling the screen down and steadily morphing the ThinkPad back into a normal laptop again. Close the lid, slot it in a laptop bag and no-one would be any the wiser.

Details and specifications are scant as this is still a concept device. What we do know is that the screen starts out measuring 12.7in across the diagonal with a 4:3 aspect ratio and, at its full height, ends up measuring 15.4in across the diagonal with an aspect ratio of 9:16. Lenovo wasn’t able to tell me the resolution of the screen but said it was similar to the one on the ThinkPad X1 Fold, so around the 2,560 x 2,024 mark.

This might not be the best screen for watching movies in full widescreen, then – imagine the size of the black bars – but I can see it being useful for work, allowing you to run Google Meet in the top half of the screen, say, and a document for taking notes in on the bottom half.

Lenovo has no plans as yet to bring the design to market but, from what I saw at the demo, it looked polished and pretty close to being a finished product. The only worry I might have would be how to prevent damage to the screen if you closed the lid while the motor was in action.

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A smartphone too? Lenovo’s on a roll

Alongside the laptop, Lenovo showed off a concept Moto smartphone, also with a rollable OLED display. Bearing the name Rizr stencilled onto the rear of the extending screen (this may not be its final name) the display on this Moto device wraps around the bottom of the phone, and faces outwards.

Left unprotected like this, I’d be worried about scratches as flexible display screens aren’t reknowned for their durability but it’s a clever design nonetheless. To unroll the screen, just double press a button on the right edge; to roll it back away do the same.

The phone also has a couple of neat extra tricks: open a video full screen, for example, and the screen unrolls automatically to its full width; take a phone call and the screen rolls down a few millimetres to reveal the earpiece and selfie camera, which are otherwise hidden behind the top edge.

Details and specifications are currently thin on the ground but Lenovo did say the phone’s screen has a 15:9 aspect ratio at 5.5in across the diagonal when rolled up and that extends to a 22:9 6.5in display when unrolled.

The “Rizr” also has two unspecified cameras on the rear, supports Moto’s gestures, such as a double twist to activate the camera and a double karate chop to turn on the torch, and has a (rather small) 3,000mAh battery to keep things powered up.

As with the laptop, there’s no word as to whether Lenovo is actually going to bring these products to market but, given its track record with products like the ThinkPad X1 Fold, there has to be more than a fighting chance that, eventually, something resembling these products will eventually appear. I hope they do, especially the laptop.