Text | DoNews Wen Lin

Editor | Yang Bocheng

A few days ago, some media said that Voice and vivo are actively preparing scroll screen mobile phones and plan to put them into commercial use before the end of next year. Nowadays, the folding screen is in full swing. Just when everyone thinks that various mobile phone manufacturers will continue to add more folding screens, they have quietly started a new layout.

First, the telescopic screen is more futuristic than the folding screen.

The so-called "scroll screen" mobile phone, from the appearance, the normal form is an ordinary straight mobile phone, but after pressing the open button, the screen slowly unfolds and becomes a "big screen tablet". Although not many people have heard of scroll screen mobile phones, in fact, as early as three years ago, brands have launched concept machines.

In 2020, OPPO took the lead in releasing the world’s first scroll screen concept mobile phone OPPO X 2021. Judging from the video displayed at that time, OPPO X 2021 is a 6.4-inch straight mobile phone under normal conditions. When the side power button is lightly slid or double-clicked, the screen can slide to the right and become a 7.4-inch large screen.

Then, at the CES 2021 conference, TCL launched a scroll screen mobile phone with vertical extension. After pressing the button, the screen that was originally 6.7 inches extended to 7.8 inches.

In addition, TCL also demonstrated a "folding+scroll" scheme: in addition to being unfolded like a folding machine, the screen can continue to extend to the left for a short period, and the whole extension can be 10 inches. Of course, the design difficulty of this mobile phone is obviously many times higher than that of a single scroll screen or a single folding screen. It can be said that mass production is far away and it is a proper stunt.

On K-Display 2022, Samsung exhibited a series of scroll screen technologies. According to Cui Yuanjun, head of the strategic product development team of Samsung’s MIX business unit and vice president of Samsung, Samsung is actively developing a new concept mobile phone with scroll screen, and will launch the product "when it is very sure".

At the same time, there are also industry reports that Samsung may produce scroll screen mobile phones in 2025. According to the trademark application submitted by Samsung before, the names of Samsung scroll screen mobile phones have a high probability of "Galaxy Z Slide" and "Galaxy Z Roll".

Not long after, Voice Tecno also released its first scroll screen concept mobile phone-Phantom Ultimate. According to reports, the Phantom Ultimate phone supports horizontal expansion. By pressing the top button, the 6.55-inch screen can be expanded to 7.11 inches in 1.2-1.3 seconds. During the stretching process, the display contents such as the interface and icons of the mobile phone system will also change with the change of the screen size.

In February of this year, Motorola also brought a mobile phone with vertical scroll screen-Motorola rizr. The default state (when rolled up) is 5 inches at 15:9, and when fully unfolded, it is 6.5 inches at 22:9.

In addition to the above-mentioned manufacturers who have successively launched concept machines, Huawei, Xiaomi, Apple and other manufacturers have developed similar scroll screen patents, although they have not made any big moves, and their design concepts are similar.

As early as October 2020, Huawei applied to China National Intellectual Property Administration, China for the invention patent of "Flexible Screen Support Mechanism and Collapsible Electronic Equipment", and the application was published on May 6, 2022. The application provides a supporting mechanism for a flexible screen, which comprises a supporting mechanism with a supporting component and a rotating component, and the appearance of the supporting mechanism is similar to that of an ancient bamboo slip structure in China.

In March, 2022, Tianyancha showed that Xiaomi obtained a patent named "a heat dissipation structure and electronic equipment for scroll screen". This year, another "mobile phone" appearance patent of Xiaomi was authorized. This patent shows the design of a cylindrical mobile phone, in which the screen structure is involved and can be drawn out when necessary.

At present, in order to meet the change of people’s habit of using smart phones, mobile phone manufacturers have begun to consider how to reduce the screen as much as possible on the basis of ensuring "big-screen mobile phones", especially under the background of poor innovation in recent years, it is difficult to arouse consumers’ enthusiasm for changing machines by squeezing toothpaste. After all, after taking photos, 5G and fast charging, the mobile phone market with excess performance also needs a new form of iteration.

The scroll screen mobile phone not only satisfies people’s imagination of "future mobile phone" with its unique flexibility and more recognizable and technological form, but also is one of the important power points for mobile phone manufacturers to hit the high end.

Second, the impact of high-end, domestic manufacturers try to overtake in corners.

For a long time, most domestic mobile phone brands are used to grabbing the market by price, and expanding sales by virtue of low-end market demand. Although the mobile phone brand is relatively easy to succeed in the early stage by relying on the dividend advantage of population and the popularity of smart phones, in the long run, it is difficult to improve the brand value and obtain higher profits by relying on the low-end strategy for a long time.

According to IDC’s latest data, although the overall market of smart phones in China continues to be in a downturn, the high-end market with a price above $600 is less affected. In the second quarter of this year, the market share of high-end mobile phones with a price of more than $600 in China reached 23.1%, which was 3.1 percentage points higher than the same period in 2022.

It can be seen that the dividend can’t last forever, and anyone in the low-end market can get in with one foot. Only when the high-end market stands firm is it really stable. It is also realized that in recent years, domestic mobile phone brands have been betting on folding screens and constantly marching into the high-end market. Unfortunately, the ideal is full and the reality is very skinny.

According to the global market data of folding screen mobile phones released by market research institute Canalys in 2022, the total shipment of folding screen mobile phones in 2022 was 14.2 million units, much higher than the 8 million units in 2021. Among them, Samsung’s folding screen products shipped nearly 12 million units, with a market share of more than 80%, ranking far ahead, and all other folding mobile phone brands accounted for less than a quarter of Samsung’s market share.

Samsung’s leading position in the folding mobile phone market stems from its two major advantages: first, the production capacity of flexible OLED screens. At present, folding mobile phones are all OLED panel technology, and in the mobile phone OLED panel market, Samsung has a market share of 70%; The second is the ultra-thin glass cover (UTG). Up to now, only Samsung can develop the ultra-thin glass cover (UTG), and other mobile phone companies can only continue to use plastic cover if they do not adopt Samsung’s technology.

It can be seen that in the folding screen mobile phone market, it is very difficult for domestic mobile phone manufacturers to catch up with Samsung, so they all aim at the new equipment form-scroll screen mobile phone, and try to use it as a breakthrough in the high-end market that can overtake Samsung in corners and is more important than folding screens.

You know, the biggest advantage of the scroll screen is that the screen size is more flexible, and the size can be infinitely adjusted up, down, left and right, which will bring more abundant usage scenarios for the mobile phone.

Moreover, compared with the folding screen mobile phone which needs to fold the screen, the scroll screen mobile phone adopts flexible OLED screen, which can avoid the crease problem of OLED screen on the folding screen mobile phone to the greatest extent, and the theoretical life is longer than that of the folding screen mobile phone, and the body is easier to be light and thin. These are undoubtedly important factors that can attract consumers to buy the experience.

Third, the road ahead, the old problems faced by the new form

Previously, Phantom Ultimate, a concept mobile phone with scroll screen, was released by Voice. Its scroll screen was made of low-temperature polycrystalline oxide (LTPO) from Huaxing Optoelectronic (CSOT), and the resolution of 7.11-inch screen was 2296×1596, while that of pixels per inch was 388PPI (pixels per inch).

According to Korean media reports, the voice scroll screen mobile phone panel will still be provided by Huaxing Optoelectronics, and the panel of vivo may come from Huaxing Optoelectronics (CSOT) or Samsung Display. Compared with Samsung Display, Huaxing Optoelectronics is considered to be less affected by the output of innovative products, so it may cooperate with and participate in the research and development and supply of vivo scroll mobile phone panels more deeply.

On the surface, as the key material of scroll screen mobile phone, flexible OLED panel is no longer a problem at the supply level. But in fact, compared with the folding screen, the scroll screen has only a lot more problems to face.

The first is a more difficult test of flexible screen technology.

The main difficulty of the scroll screen lies in that when the screen is in the curled and unfolded state, the deformation of each film layer of the screen is much larger than that of the folding screen, and the inner and outer film layers have to withstand greater tensile stress and compressive stress, so the material requirements are higher and the screen manufacturing is more difficult.

At the same time, the stretched flexible screen is enough for browsing and watching content because of its lack of hardness, but it may not be very convenient for finger touch to input text and fast-paced game control.

The second is how to solve the complex internal institutions.

Different from the hinge of the folding screen mobile phone, the scroll screen mobile phone mainly relies on the motor to control the expansion and contraction of the screen, and the latter is obviously more precise in design. The more complicated mechanical structures, the more likely it is that the mobile phone will have problems. However, if there is dust and particles, it may get stuck.

Moreover, after the expansion mechanism is added to the scroll screen mobile phone, the overall structural strength, waterproof performance, software adaptation and other aspects will almost face new challenges. For example, it is difficult to place more cameras or battery packs by adding a telescopic motor structure to a thinner fuselage, which is difficult to improve the photo taking and battery life.

In addition, the entry threshold of the scroll screen is also high.

As we all know, the panel industry is a "money burning machine". Even BOE, an industry giant, experienced huge losses for quite some time, and the Hefei municipal government "injected blood" for it to achieve later results. At present, both suppliers and mobile phone brands need to invest a lot of energy and money to enter the immature scroll screen.

Previously, Lei Jun said in the "2023 Lei Jun Annual Speech" that in the next five years, Xiaomi will invest 100 billion yuan in technology research and development, and it is estimated that the R&D investment in 2023 will exceed 20 billion yuan; In order to launch high-end products, Voice began to increase R&D investment at the expense of profits.

However, the maturity of products can not be decided by one or two brands, and the whole industry chain needs to work together. In addition, there is still a trade-off between the price and cost of the scroll screen mobile phone. Perhaps it is based on this consideration that the market has not mass-produced the scroll screen mobile phone.

Throughout the past, the popularity of full-screen mobile phones took about five years, and the development of folding screen mobile phones took five years, and the global shipments only exceeded 10 million units. It is foreseeable that the scroll screen mobile phone is destined to be a niche mobile phone with shining black technology for a long time to come. It’s just a question of practicality, but it’s still worth looking forward to.