we tested one of the 25 prototypes in the world

Gif: Matías S. Zavia / Gizmodo in Spanish

There are only 25 Oppo X 2021 prototypes circling the world, and Oppo has come to Malaga to show us one. Of course, someone had thrown it to the ground, so we had to settle for a slightly broken model.

The Oppo X 2021 is one of the most amazing flexible screen mobile concepts we’ve seen so far. It is not a folding phone, but a roll-up: a device with two internal motors that can unfold its screen to the side to become a small tablet.

Built with a flexible OLED panel and a sliding frame with a comb-like structure, which keeps the screen rigid in its entirety, the Oppo X 2021 can go from 6.7 to 7.4 inches, adapting the resolution of the interface and from applications automatically.

The screen is extended by sliding your finger across a side sensor, which also serves as a fingerprint reader. When you use the device in “phone format”, part of the screen is rolled up on a 6.8 millimeter axis, supposedly the perfect diameter to minimize wrinkles on the plastic panel. However, that typical flex screen phone crease is still visible in direct light when the panel is extended.

The mechanism is not totally silent, they are heard the soft hum of the servo motors and some strange clicking sounds. But it’s not a noise worrying. In the prototype, the motors do not stop until the screen is fully unrolled, so I could not use the Oppo X 2021 in an intermediate size, which was one of the Oppo promises (adjust the screen size to different types of content, such as a movie, an e-book or a video game).

On the other hand, the interface of ColorOS, Oppo’s operating system based on Android, does change its resolution as the screen is extended, enlarging the wallpaper and the grid of icons on the home screen in real time. It is the most magical part of the process, even if it is a software trick (and it was obvious that the software was not yet polished).

Oppo says that the mechanism is tested to last 100,000 cycles, that is, to unwind 100,000 times and wind 100,000 times. Assuming you open the phone 50 times a day (which seems like a lot because there aren’t that many times a day you need to use a tablet), then the Oppo X 2021 would last on average for five and a half years before needing a repair.

Does it convince you? You don’t have to answer. Oppo does not expect to bring a commercial model to the market until it has a mechanism capable of extending and retracting 200,000 times, doubling the useful life of the prototype that we have been able to test. Will we see the Oppo X 2021, or something similar, on sale soon? Who knows, but I have no doubt that Oppo will compete with the foldables of Samsung, Huawei Y Xiaomi Sooner than later.

Oppo is one of the phone manufacturers that is investing the most in R&D. In fact, it was the fifth company in the world with the most patent applications in 2020, behind Huawei, Mitsubishi, Samsung and Qualcomm. Some of these inventions end up on their phones, sometimes to stay, as happened with the first 10x zoom, and sometimes for a season, as happened with the shark fin camera hiding when it detected a fall.

Perhaps the perfect example of this philosophy of innovation first is the microscopic camera of the Oppo Find X3 Pro. I’m not sure it’s a useful add-on on a phone, but it’s undeniably attention-grabbing. It is one of those functions that you want to show everyone, and that marketing teams take advantage of as a point of sale (although the real success of the Find X3 Pro is its design, which integrates the rear cameras into the body of the phone with a case that Oppo takes 40 hours to make).

Oppo is currently the first smartphone brand in China and the fourth in Spain. It’s not by chance. The company has disbursed huge amounts of money to sponsor Roland Garros and Wimbledon at the same time, and even has an agreement with Barça for its brand to appear at the Camp Nou.

Just yesterday it was announced that Oppo has absorbed OnePlus, and I would not be surprised if the “OnePlus” brand disappeared over time so that Oppo continues to grow in the international market, now that Huawei is touched by the American veto. Samsung and Xiaomi should be on the lookout.