Smartphone concepts are promotional tools — primarily used to drum up excitement among geeks like me and you, and provide a glimpse into what direction companies are looking to take.
But here’s the problem with phone concepts. Sometimes they are rather outlandish, and will make anyone with half a mind a little nervous about where OEMs think things will head into the future. Not to say there’s anything wrong with thinking big, but maybe take some time to see how people actually use phones before deciding what the concept will be.
It’s getting weird
Most recently, we saw the Honor V Purse. On one hand, anyone in the know will immediately look at this and think “isn’t this just the Huawei Mate Xs 2 with a purse strap attached to it?” And you would be right — seems as if this is a repackaging of a fashion-centric phone (the Mate Xs 2 was announced in Milan), which steered further into it being an accessory.
Now I know I’m not in the best position to give an opinion on this, as I don’t carry a purse. But asking my friends who do, the general consensus has been one of confusion. “Why would I carry this rather than an actual purse for everything I need?” “Why can’t I put anything inside this purse phone?” Just two of a few questions I was asked about it.
Add to that the various rollable phones that turn the simple act of responding to a message into a formal occasion of the phone slowly expanding in your hand (like the Motorola RIZR), and you start to see the odd directions being taken here when it comes to trying to define the future of the smartphone.
In fact, I’ll go one further and say it's the more standard concepts that get me more excited — those that provide a spin on the current formula to show companies are looking at more step-by-step innovation. Look at the OnePlus 11 concept for example, which implements liquid cooling into the phone for improved performance and a cool look.
Over on the photography side, the Xiaomi 12S Ultra gives you the chance to slap a Leica lens on the camera. These are more realistic concepts that you can honestly see becoming a thing over the next couple of years.
I know this goes at odds with my general opinion that smartphones are boring. I should be excited to see OEMs go a bit weird and give us something out there to start a conversation. But that’s all they ever will be — conversation starters.
It’s like when you see a cool concept car that you really want to drive, but the inevitable result is you’ll end up behind the wheel of another generic hatchback. At best, they create a false equivalence of making you think smartphones can be exciting, when actually they are just as utilitarian as buying a washing machine. And at worst, they make you fear the industry is heading in some strange directions with its product design.
So please, phone makers. When it comes to giving us a concept, please think it through and give it some realism. Start to think about how you could take the smartphone in interesting-yet-logical directions.
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Jason brings a decade of tech and gaming journalism experience to his role as a writer at Laptop Mag. He takes a particular interest in writing articles and creating videos about laptops, headphones and games. He has previously written for Kotaku, Stuff and BBC Science Focus. In his spare time, you'll find Jason looking for good dogs to pet or thinking about eating pizza if he isn't already.