2020 has been some 12 months – and it’s completely comprehensible if you missed a number of cellphone launches amid the chaos and headline-grabbing occasions. That turmoil definitely reached the smartphone business, however in some way, phones nonetheless got here out, and a few are even weirder than normal.
2019 may need been the 12 months that the foldable debuted, however in 2020 we bought a rollable cellphone on our minds (courtesy of TCL) and a swivel cellphone in our fingers (thank you, LG). Of course, we bought our first clamshell foldables, too, with the Motorola Razr bringing the enduring flip cellphone to the fashionable age – and Samsung sizzling on its heels with its personal Galaxy Z Flip.
We additionally bought our first take a look at the following sizzling factor in smartphones – goodbye notches and punch-holes, hey under-display selfie cameras. And lastly, not all advances are next-gen tech – typically all it takes is the inclusion of previous options, like styluses, in probably the most unlikely of locations.
So right here’s our favourite weird phones that debuted in 2020, roughly in the order they appeared – a few of which we held in our fingers, and others which might be nonetheless too futuristic to hit the market.
OnePlus Concept One
The OnePlus Concept One was by far probably the most thrilling cellphone at CES 2020 all the best way again in January. While it was shortly clear the experimental handset would by no means be offered in shops, the Concept One was a cool method to fixing one thing cellphone makers had but to think about an issue: hiding the rear lenses on phones utilizing dimming glass.
OnePlus referenced sportscar home windows as inspiration for the glass; run a present by way of it, and it goes from translucent to deeply shaded. The Concept One does this change mechanically when you open the digicam app, and the glass strip over the rear cameras subtly transitions from opaque to clear.
You’d surprise why OnePlus isn’t dashing this into all its phones, however there are some design issues – specifically whether or not the glass strip would occlude the cameras if it will get scratched or the mechanism fails. We barely had time to carry the cellphone and take a look at the (very practical) impact for ourselves, however couldn’t say whether or not this tech is prepared for mass market. We hope so: cellphone design is simply too stagnant.
While we first bought our fingers on the Motorola Razr in late 2019, delays pushed its launch to early 2020 – and whereas the clamshell foldable captured the general public’s creativeness, it didn’t seem to be it offered too effectively.
Which is a disgrace given the design innovation it took to get the Razr to work: a hinge that bends the plastic show in such an esoteric method to hold it from creasing, whereas additionally integrating micro-brushes to mechanically sweep away particles so that they don’t gum up the works. And, sure, the Razr did handle to get a fully-functional smartphone to fold right into a kind issue that’s half the scale of a typical cellphone’s footprint.
Sadly, it’s considerably pricier than flagship phones with out providing extra performance – even having the ability to snap the Razr closed to finish a cellphone name doesn’t justify the value hike.
Some design flaws have been ironed out in the Motorola Razr 2020 refinement launched later in 2020, however even that doesn’t fairly prime the one different clamshell foldable launched this 12 months, the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip. But the Razr was first available on the market and in our hearts.
Plus, taking a selfie with a cellphone folded as much as the scale of a mint tin is so, so cool.
Moto G Stylus
Motorola has been releasing admirable price range G-series phones for years – usually 4 or extra fashions directly that barely differ in specs and worth. But in 2020, the most recent technology launched one thing new – or somewhat, one thing previous, because the Moto G Stylus consists of one of many oldest options in cell computing.
The LG Stylo collection has carried the budget-phone-with-a-stylus torch for years, however the introduction of the Moto G Stylus makes this a development. No longer restricted to expensive flagship Samsung Galaxy Note phones, the G Stylus is a powerhouse of its personal with first rate specs and a stylus that’s surprisingly responsive given it’s unpowered.
While which means it doesn’t have the superior connectivity options of Samsung’s S Pen (like gesture management or a shutter button), it’s nonetheless bought stylus performance at a cut price worth.
LG Wing 5G
One of our favourite phones this 12 months is the LG Wing 5G, which can be one of many strangest. Remember the previous Sidekick phones that swiveled out? This is the fashionable model – although as an alternative of showing a keyboard, the LG Wing’s prime display screen swivels out to disclose… one other, smaller display screen.
This is cool, really: in idea, you can watch one thing on the big display screen whereas chatting or doing unrelated duties on the small show. Ever wanted to do a easy search or lookup instructions, however didn’t wish to change away from the video or present you’re watching? The LG Wing affords extra discrete actual property than conventional smartphones, and all with an addicting swivel movement.
You’ll get extra display screen space from a real foldable, however in latest LG style, the Wing is cheaper, with a price ticket equal to top-tier flagships… however half the price of a Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2, as an illustration.
The execution isn’t with out its points, and it takes some work to modify between apps on the small and enormous show. But for the worth and sheer ‘wow’ issue, the LG Wing 5G is a weird treasure we didn’t count on in 2020.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2
‘But wait, didn’t the unique Galaxy Fold come out in 2019, and isn’t this simply an iteration?’ Yes, the Galaxy Z Fold 2 doesn’t mess with the components of its jaw-dropping predecessor, however there’s one enchancment price highlighting: the exterior show has been expanded to go from edge to edge.
The Z Fold 2 features like a full smartphone, after which when it’s unfolded, works like a small pill. More importantly, it means three-fourths of the cellphone’s floor is a contact show. This is fairly wild to realize; it doesn’t really feel like it could take rather more innovation to do the identical for the glass rear cowl, extending contact performance to each inch of the foldable’s floor.
The Huawei Mate Xs and different ‘outie’ foldables kind of already do that, since their single giant exterior show wraps entrance to again when the machine is folded in half. But if we will get to creating either side touch-functional, we may have very unusual and really responsive units. Then we’d have to determine what to do with all that further display screen space we’re not watching however can nonetheless be touching.
ZTE Axon 20 5G
We’ve seen a number of idea phones pose a brand new resolution to the issue of notches and punch-holes: as an alternative of placing the selfie digicam in a cut-out in the display screen or a pop-up part, simply put it underneath the show.
Of course, it must be a selected show to permit the digicam to shoot by way of the display screen – and the ZTE Axon 20 5G is the primary we’ve gotten in our fingers that pulls this resolution off.
Haven’t heard of it? The ZTE Axon 20 5G was introduced in China again in September and simply got here out in the UK, but it surely’s not clear when (or if) it should attain different nations.
We’re keen to check out how effectively the 32MP front-facing digicam takes images from underneath the show; in any other case, it’s formed as much as be a good higher mid-range/cheaper flagship cellphone with a Snapdragon 765G chipset, as much as 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage, and a quad rear digicam.
Oppo’s odd foldables… and rollables
No record of weird phones can be full with out the units we noticed (or heard about) that gained’t come out for years – if in any respect. Some of them are radically completely different from standard phones, and maybe far too weird to attraction to customers. Consider the Oppo idea designed in partnership with the Japanese design studio, Nendo – a foldable with a triple-hinge.
Today, we’re showcasing two new design ideas produced in collaboration with main Japanese design studio, nendo. First, is the ‘slide-phone’, which encompasses a triple-hinge foldable display screen system. #OPPOxnendo pic.twitter.com/r6YNrc2EmPDecember 14, 2020
That’s not the one oddball non-traditional cellphone to get teased this 12 months. Rumors of a TCL rollable cellphone have been cropping up all 12 months, most just lately in an alleged leaked video that confirmed a working prototype of a cellphone with a display screen that slides out sideways.
Oppo had additionally confirmed off a design for a rollable cellphone, and could also be nearer to introducing a usable machine: the corporate confirmed off the Oppo X 2021 in late 2020, although the corporate clarified that it’s an idea cellphone, and certain gained’t be offered as-is available on the market.
Even so, it’s promising, as Oppo confirmed off a practical design: a 6.7-inch OLED show to start out, however the cellphone’s physique slides laterally to broaden the display screen to 7.4 inches.
And though we have not seen it, we have additionally heard of the LG Rollable – a rumored rollable cellphone which if leaks are to be believed may value $2,359 (roughly £1,775, AU$3,130).