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The LG Rollable phone with expandable display is real, and coming in 2021

The video that LG teased at its CES press conference of a phone with an expanding display isn't just a concept. We'll be able to buy it this year.

The LG Rollable was teased at CES 2021. 

Screenshot by Allyza Umali/CNET
This story is part of CES, where our editors will bring you the latest news and the hottest gadgets of CES 2022.

LG's tease of its Rollable smartphone at its CES 2021 press conference isn't just for show. The Korean company will release the phone later this year, according to people familiar with LG's plans. 

The brief glimpse of the phone was the second tease of the Rollable, which has a display that extends upward to create a larger, more tablet-like screen. Presumably, the bottom of the phone, when it's in landscape mode, has a mechanism that furls and unfurls the display, similar to how its rollable OLED televisions work -- but on a smaller scale. 

Now playing: Watch this: At CES, phone screens roll out into table size

The LG Rollable only showed up in two videos bookending the press conference and the executives on stage didn't mention the device. That led to speculation that it was only a concept device, not ready for prime time. TCL later Monday showed off two concepts for rollable phones, including a larger 17-inch tablet that unfurled from both ends, like a treasure map, but those appear to be far away from an actual product. 

Not so for the LG Rollable. The phone would be the first such device to hit the market, marking another step in the evolution of phone design beyond even the foldable phones that have come out over the last two years. After years of pushing the same metal box design, the phone industry has been keen to experiment with different shapes and concepts to spark some excitement again. 

After years of conservative phones, LG has shown a renewed interest in playing with the different concepts. Last fall, the company launched the LG Wing, which featured two screens stacked together, with the top one able to swivel out into horizontal mode. CNET editor Lynn La said that after getting over the weird design, she found it useful for multitasking and video capture. 

Once a major player among the top-tier smartphone makers, LG's reputation, particularly with flagship phones, has taken a hit as larger players like Samsung and Huawei have overtaken it. Smaller companies like OnePlus have been able to generate more buzz, so LG needs something to jumpstart the excitement over its mobile lineup. 

Now playing: Watch this: LG offers peek at rollable phone at CES 2021

LG has also perennially followed larger rival Samsung, which has cemented itself in the foldable category with its Z family of smartphones. Last year, it launched the Galaxy Z Flip and GalaxyZ Fold 2

For once, LG may have a leg up on the competition.