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CES 2021

LG to release world's first rollable smartphone, developed with BOE

South Korean and Chinese companies collaborate to counter Samsung's foldable product

LG unveiled the world’s first rollable smartphone at the CES, following success of Samsung Electronics’ foldable smartphones. (Screenshot from LG's YouTube page) 

SEOUL -- LG Electronics has unveiled the world's first rollable smartphone at the CES, the world's biggest consumer electronics and technology expo, leading the competition for the next display form factor in the handset market, following the success of Samsung Electronics' foldable smartphones.

LG released a five-second teaser scene, featuring a smartphone with the display rolling out to expand as the case slides up at the digital show on Monday. The company said the product will be launched later this year.

"Our management wanted to show that it is a real product, as there were many rumors around the rollable phone," said Ken Hong, a spokesman for LG. "As it is released at CES 2021, I can tell that it will be launched this year."

An industry source familiar with the matter confirmed that LG is working with China's BOE Technology Group to produce rollable displays. A rollable display is based on flexible organic light-emitting diode technology. BOE has supplied OLED displays to Huawei Technologies' smartphones and since late last year has been started supplying a small amount of these displays to Apple for iPhones that are used in aftersales screen repair services, the Nikkei Asia learned.

"LG is developing the rollable smartphone with BOE," said the source, asking not to be named.

BOE did not immediately respond to requests for the comment.

Market watchers say BOE should be happy with LG's cooperation as it needs more smartphone customers to digest the OLED capacity that Huawei no longer consumes due to U.S. sanctions against the Chinese company.

LG's rollable display comes as the company's smartphone business is struggling to make money due to tough competition with market leaders such as Samsung, Huawei and Apple. LG's mobile communication division marked 148.4 billion won ($135 million) of operating loss in the third quarter, down from 161.1 billion won a year earlier.

Chinese TV giant TCL Technology Group also unveiled its rollable display technology at the CES. The company showed a video featuring a female customer using a smartphone with a rollable display. The company said the rollable display will set a new standard for mobile devices.

According to British research firm Euromonitor International, TCL was third in the global flat-panel TV market in 2019, with a 7.8% share. Samsung was the market leader, with an 18.7% share, followed by LG with 15.2%.

Additional reporting by Nikkei Asia staff writers Cheng Ting-Fang and Lauly Li in Taipei.

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