CES 2021 Day 1: Rolling phones, giant TVs and tech for the coronavirus era


TCL’s printed OLED scrolling display. 


This story is part of CES, where our editors will bring you the latest news and the hottest gadgets of the entirely virtual CES 2021.

It’s Day 1 of the weirdest CES ever. Instead of hundreds of thousands flocking to Las Vegas to see the biggest tech of the year to come, companies like LG, Samsung and more are hosting virtual press conferences. It’s not quite the same, but thankfully there’s still plenty of cool stuff for you to ooh and aah at. 

Day 1 isn’t quite over, and there’s still plenty of CES yet to see. Tuesday will bring press conferences and keynotes from the likes of Microsoft, Lenovo, TCL and Intel, and Thursday will bring Samsung Galaxy Unpacked. 

Keep rollin’

Phone makers are trying to figure out what to do next. There have been folding phones, like the Samsung Galaxy Fold, and companies across the industry are making a big fuss of 5G. Folding devices could still prove a hit, and 5G will end up being worth the hubbub, but at CES two companies have shown they have another idea: Rollable phones. 

First up, LG showed off the LG Rollable at its press conference. Well, kind of. Video footage of the phone, being held in landscape mode as the display expanded and contracted like magic, bookended the press conference, though, in something of a flex, it was never actually acknowledged on stage. That usually screams “concept project”, but not this time. The Korean company will release the phone later this year, according to people familiar with LG’s plans

The LG Rollable is a concept teased at CES 2021. 

Screenshot by Allyza Umali/CNET

LG isn’t the only one keen to get rolling, as Chinese electronics company TCL followed on Monday with two rolling designs. One was a 6.7-inch phone that “with a tap of a finger” could extend out to 7.8-inches. The second looked far more futuristic:  A 17-inch Printed Flexible OLED Scrolling Display. The accompanying concept video showed the screen unfurlling like a scroll, though it looks more like a proof-of-concept than an actual product.The tech can be “widely applied on flexible TVs, curved and foldable displays as well as transparent commercial display screens,” said TCL innovation head Tiago Abreu. 

TCL said it would be releasing a phone with a “flexible” display in 2021, though it’s unclear if that’s a folding display or the rolling one shown at CES. 

Tech for our time

COVID-19 hasn’t just made CES a virtual affair, it’s also made CES a pitching ground for tech in the pandemic era. The most glitzy example thus far comes from LG, which debuted its latest InstaView fridge. New features on the 2021 model include UV light that eliminates “99.9%” of bacteria in the fridge’s water dispenser, and the ability to open via voice command. No touching required… until you get the snack you came for, at least. 

The South Korean company also gave a spotlight to its Puriview line of air filters, which range from big models for office spaces to the Puriview Mini, a portable air filter you can carry in a bag or backpack. There’s also a battery-powered, air-purifying face mask

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LG unveils air-purifying gadgets at CES 2021


Other nifty air purifiers on show include the CleanAirZone — which attempts to make purifiers go more green by cleaning the air using “natural biotics and enzymes derived from nature”, theoretically resulting is less disposable-filter waste — and the tiny Luftqi Luft Duo, an air purifier small and inobtrusive enough to be taken anywhere. The Game Boy of air purifiers. 

Finally, there’s Ubtech’s Adibot. This isn’t one you’d buy for your home (unless you have a spare $20,000), instead it’s for schools and small businesses. It’s a giant, cylindrical badass of a cleaning robot that uses ultraviolet light to cleanse rooms. If you are anxious to get some ultraviolet cleansing in your life, GHSP’s Grenlite is tech that gives your car the UV treatment


LG and Samsung TV wars

TVs are the heart of CES, especially the early days in the convention. Few things dazzle like a big, beautiful screen after all. Day 1 of CES had plenty of that, with the usual suspects in LG and Samsung showing off their ultra high-end stuff for 2021.

LG, king of OLED displays, unveiled its Evo lineup, which includes four different models: A1, C1, G1 and Z1. (Hint, the further along the alphabet, the more you pay.) The crowl jewel of the series is the Z1, which comes in either 77- or 88-inch varients — yes, as in it starts at 77-inches. Both sizes come in 8K. No pricing yet, but last year’s 88-inch LG display cost $30,000

LG’s OLED Evo family. 


But if bigger is better, the win goes to Samsung. It showed off a 110-inch 4K MiniLED TV, one that’s expected to cost around $150,000, which also has smaller 98- and 88-inch variants. That’s not exactly new though, as it launched in South Korea last month. Fresher to CES is an updated model of Samsung’s popular Frame TV. With bezels designed to look like picture frames, this newer model is just 24.9mm thick — around the same depth of an actual picture frame. 

The big two Korean electronics giants weren’t the only ones to show off new TVs on Day 1 of CES, as TCL also announced its first 8K TV lineup. It’ll be an updated version of the 6-series 4K TV — one of CNET’s favorites — though the Chinese company has yet to announce the price. With TCL regularly undercutting LG, Samsung and Sony on price, it’ll be interesting to see how low they can go for 8K. 


Samsung’s Bot Handy can do put dirty dishes in a dishwasher or pour a bottle of wine. 

Screenshot by Sarah Tew/CNET

Samsung is taking us to 2062

We’re one step closer to The Jetsons. Samsung at CES unveiled three new consumer Bots, one of which can pour you a glass of wine. No flying cars yet, though. 

The first of Samsung’s new robots you’ll actually be able to buy is the JetBot 90 AI Plus, which does double duty as both a smart vacuum and a security camera for the home. Samsung said it’ll be available in the first half of 2021. There’s also the new Bot Care, an updated version of a robot Samsung showed in 2018, which is a companion and assistant. It can aswer your questions, learn your schedule and send you reminders. 

Rounding out the trio is the Bot Handy, the aforementioned wine pouring machine, that uses AI to figure out how to hold different-sized objects, and with how much force it should hold them. It’s smart enough to help clean rooms and sort dishes, too.

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