The Oppo X 2021 is an impressive smartphone concept capable of expanding thanks to its roll-up screen. We have taken this product in hand and even if it is not intended for commercialization, it is already making us dream.
Bzzzzzt. The sound of the engine is heard slowly, the time of a very small handful of seconds. The sound stops and here I am, as if by magic, with a tablet-format device in my hands when it had, the moment before, the appearance of a classic telephone. This is the Oppo X 2021, an expandable smartphone concept with a scrollable screen that allows you to enlarge the display area without suffering from the slightest bend in the middle. Impressive.
We got hold of the Oppo X 2021 which, remember, was unveiled in November in China. Far from having reached the stage of finished product, it nevertheless has the merit of exploring a very different path from those of folding smartphones. Should we see here the real future of our smart phones, or is it just a sham? Without claiming to answer this thorny question, we invite you to discover our first reactions and observations. You can then build your opinion in a hopefully more informed way.
Remember one essential thing as well: the Oppo X 2021 is not destined to be marketed. It is a technological showcase for its manufacturer who seeks to show off its know-how and to think about the innovations it wishes to offer to the market in the future.
A technological slap
When I pick up the Oppo X 2021 for the first time, it is in classic smartphone format. Finally, I say “classic”, but you should know that even under this appearance, the object is rather imposing with its diagonal of 6.7 inches and its consequent thickness. It reminds me a little of a Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra or a Huawei Mate 40 Pro, but bigger.
The technological slap does not take long to manifest itself, because I hasten to extend the screen by requesting the motorized system which takes care of doing this for me. The result is stunning, neither more nor less. The transition from smartphone format to tablet format is fluid and has no particular hitch. The screen went from 6.7 to 7.4 inches by itself and without suffering from the slightest fold in its middle, contrary to what is often criticized on a Galaxy Z Fold 2.
No irregularity is observed when the slab extends, everything is perfectly uniform. The feat is therefore not only technical, it is also aesthetic.
Since we are talking about Samsung, also know that the Oppo X 2021, in its tablet version, offers a display format higher but narrower than the jewel of Samsung.
The Oppo France team was unfortunately unable to confirm the dimensions and weight of the device. With a colleague present on site, we therefore measured ourselves with a measurement ruler of 168 x 76 x 11 mm in smartphone mode. In tablet format, the width rises to 114 mm according to our extra double decimetre, but the thickness does not change or almost unlike foldable smartphones. For the weight, deprived of balance, I could only trust my feelings: the Oppo X 2021 is very heavy.
We must also address the way in which the change in screen size is initiated. There is a physical button on the right edge of the Oppo X 2021. The latter allows you to unlock the smartphone in a classic way, but it is also him which allows it to be extended.
To do this, double press or slide your thumb over the recess in the key. For the first method, I had no problem, for the second … I did not succeed, not once, never. The Oppo manager who was demonstrating didn’t have a problem, but I didn’t have the same success.
The Oppo X 2021 being a concept above all else, it lacks a few things. There is no front photo sensor or buttons to adjust the volume – you have to go through the system settings for that.
So many elements that prove that you will not see this model soon on the market. To continue the owner’s tour, it should be noted that the USB-C port at the bottom encroaches a bit on the dividing line at which the smartphone deploys to expand.
Line found on the back of the device, a little at an angle. We also see a triple photo module in the upper left corner, but we couldn’t really test it.
An interface to finish but with good ideas
Well, a smartphone that expands and shrinks at the user’s discretion, that’s obviously very cool. However, how does the software part cope with the pace? Before going any further, it should be noted that the firmware Oppo X 2021 is definitely not over. As an example, for example, I caused the terminal to shut down twice simply by chaining too many applications. Despite these limitations, some interesting details should be noted.
First of all, on the home screen, the transition from one format to another is extremely transparent, without any particular animation. It is very pleasant and successful. However, the situation is not the same when you open an application. On YouTube or on the browser, the Oppo X 2021 operates a fade – a kind of smooth transition but very visible to the eye – between smartphone content and tablet content.
It almost looks like a purposely outdated TV effect, but I found it to be a good solution to not rush the user experience. There may be better things to do, but it’s a good start.
– Belmar Belkaab (@OmarBelkaab) February 9, 2021
However, in these applications, the smartphone is content to expand the content. It’s practical and more comfortable, but it doesn’t fully exploit the technology of this concept. The enlarged screen is however best used in the settings. Each sub-menu is displayed in a column to the right of the main menu. We thus have more elements under our eyes. For more advanced uses, it will obviously be necessary for third-party developers to adapt their applications in turn for this Oppo X 2021 to become really relevant. Again, it won’t be for now.
For this technological feat, Oppo has put the means and protected itself with multiple patents. To enlarge the display area, the manufacturer obviously does not use an elastic panel, but rather rollable. Indeed, part of the screen remains hidden in smartphone format and unfolds as soon as you switch to tablet mode.
In this regard, Oppo is very proud of its motorized system designed specifically for this product, its mechanism with two plates that move away or closer to each other and even the curvature of the calculated screen ” perfectly To ensure flawless operation. There is also a thin metal layer made up of several links and arranged like a caterpillar placed below the screen to help the slab unroll while giving it better strength. Please note, the screen remains more fragile than the standard.
Speaking of robustness, Oppo ensures that we can extend and shrink thisconcept phoneup to 100,000 times. The manufacturer is aiming for 200,000 times, but tests are still underway to reach this level.
Smartphones to fold or stretch?
To conclude, I think we can all agree that this Oppo X 2021 is impressive. This is frankly the most suitable adjective to describe it. However, is it relevant for all that? Difficult to say for the moment and for a more interesting reflection, we must above all ask ourselves which vision should we prefer for the future of our hybrid smartphones, the folding or the rollable?
A Galaxy Z Fold 2 effectively protects its internal screen when folded, but does not yet know how to get rid of its fold. The Oppo X 2021 allows a smoother transition between smartphone and tablet formats, but does not protect its screen. Oppo is also aware of this and explains very clearly that it does not consider this product to be ready at all.
The company claims to want to provide devices that guarantee a certain longevity and meet consumer expectations, especially in terms of price. However, it is impossible to know for the moment if this concept can withstand the ravages of time and conversely, there is no doubt that if it had an official price, it would be very high.
In the meantime, the Oppo X 2021 puts stars in our eyes and that’s also a little bit of the beauty of new technologies.