The rising tide of smallphones and dumbphones

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Over the past few weeks, you’ll have seen quite a few smartphones that went against the cultural norm of innovation and progress. The Punkt MP02 stripped the phone of its addictive camera, screen, and internet connectivity, forcing people to communicate using voice, rather than send each other notifications and messages on apps. The Palm Phone shrunk your feature phone to a size that seemed handy, going against the wave of massive phablet-sized phones with 97% of the front just dominated by pixels.

Kyocera’s KY-O1L is a bit of both (although the name could be a little catchier). A recipient of the Japanese Good Design Award, and also touted as the world’s thinnest phone, the KY-O1L is literally the size of a credit card, and just a couple of millimeters thinner. Designed for the white-collar workers who still rely on business cards, the KY-O1L fits right into cardholders, allowing you to have a phone along with your cards that you can A. carry around with you, and B. Use to instantly make calls, save contacts, and access the web for work-related reasons.

The phone comes with a monochrome e-ink touchscreen, and a 380mAh battery that’s more than enough to power the phone. Built with LTE, the phone can be used to browse the internet too, and although there isn’t an app store (or Android compatibility), the phone does come with a web browser that’s more than sufficient to access information on the web. Running a browser in black and white can be a slightly unnerving experience at first, but it’s definitely rewarding in the sense that it allows you to be purely utilitarian with your phone. A perfect phone for the kind of person who believes in hustling, keeping technology in check while being able to communicate with the world, and most importantly, safeguarding their privacy with technology that doesn’t use apps or cameras to spy incessantly on them. It doesn’t sound that bad when you say it that way, does it?

Designer: Kyocera

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The World’s First Complete Smartphone Video Kit!

While the cameras that are found in our smartphones are ever-advancing, there are still downfalls that restrict their video-taking capabilities; weak audio and poor lighting lead to undesirable videos that don’t accurately capture the moment. This is where the SmartCine steps in!

The SmartCine is an all-in-one video rig that’s fit for use with any smartphone! The compact rig is packed full of video enhancing features; the silky-smooth HD Stereo Mic take cares of the audio side of things, this is positioned right above the Lens Mount, which offers the option of using both wide-angle and fish-eye lenses, each mount securely to SmartCine’s body. Low-light situations are handled faultlessly using the 36 ultra-bright, brilliant white LEDs that are positioned around the camera lens. No more dark and underwhelming videos!

All of this has been packed into a device that’s both comfortable to use, thanks to the rubberized grip, and compact enough to forget you even have it with you. SmartCine will help you can take your video production to the next level!

Designer: MOVO

Click here to Buy Now: $70 $129 (46% off). Hurry, less than 24 hours left!

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An all-in-one video rig for any smartphone. A pro stereo microphone, LED light ring and set of wide-angle lenses in one compact package.

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Porsche Design x Huawei breathe a new life into smartphone Aesthetics


I’ve been rather verbose in my appreciation of Huawei’s experimentation with smartphone aesthetics. First came the stunning metallic gradients, then came the Mate 20, with its unique square shaped 3-lens-plus-flash arrangement, and a metallic gradient that was even richer than before. Porsche Design put a spin on this particular model in Huawei’s line-up, and the Mate 20 RS was born.

The Mate 20 RS is worth talking about because it’s no secret that smartphones are looking almost eerily similar nowadays. An industry that once prided itself in some wildly designed phones that went on to become icons of their times (the Moto Razr and Nokia N.Gage come to mind) is now filled with an eerily similar suspect line-up of phones, where the user literally spends hours trying to tell apart phones and sort the good from the bad. In getting Porsche Design on board, Huawei doesn’t just push the envelope, it also shows that smartphone companies should, once in a while, look outside their hardware design teams to work on aesthetics and detailing (take Philippe Starck’s Xiaomi Mi Mix 2 for instance). Porsche Design’s reinterpretation of the Huawei Mate 20 RS involves a leather and glass construction. With leather on two sides, you’ve got a phone that is great to grip and doesn’t slip easily off your palms. The glass strip running across the center forms a canvas for reflections and highlights to give the phone its mirror-finish appeal. It also looks like a racing stripe, giving the phone a sportscar vibe. Lastly, the presence of the glass strip allows the phone to charge wirelessly (at breakneck speeds of 70% in half an hour) too.

The Mate 20 RS makes a great case for getting product and industrial design studios and professionals (with interdisciplinary experience) on board to design smartphones, possibly making them stand out again, and ushering in the second golden era of mobile phone design!

Designers: Huawei & Porsche Design.

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The Instant Lab turns your phone into a polaroid!

As a proud owner of a similar device, I can vouch for how amazing it is to be able to click selfies and pictures, edit them, and then print them out on instant film. You get a level of control that you just don’t get with other instant cameras. You can take multiple shots and select which one you want to immortalize in print, and you can even crop, rotate, edit, and tweak photos to make them look absolutely spectacular.

The Impossible Instant Lab converts these images into print, using a camera lens and instant-film. A bellow structure opens upwards to create a dark-room of sorts, and you place your phone on top, with the image you want to print opened on your phone’s screen. The Instant Lab comes with its own app that lets you customize your picture, cropping it to a square, as well as deciding how much exposure you want your print to have. Place the phone (with the image loaded on the app) on top of the Instant Lab and pull the shutter outwards. The camera does the rest, clicking a picture of your phone’s screen and translating it on print. Press the film-release button and the print comes cascading outwards and develops within seconds!

Aside from giving you the freedom to choose, crop, tweak, and print photos of your choice, the Instant Lab also gives you the ability to create Polaroid-style (and Polaroid level) pictures without really owning a Polaroid or an Instax. Universally compatible, you can print pictures from a week to even a year ago, giving you the ability to relive memories through a beautiful physical print! 100% would recommend for your next Christmas holiday card!

Designer: The Impossible Project

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In a world filled with plus-sized phones, Palm’s new phone is perfectly petite!

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At 3.3 inches, Palm’s latest smartphone has the smallest display in practically a decade (even the first ever iPhone had a 3.5 inch screen), but it does so with reason. The tiny, incredibly handy phone wants to be the phone you carry for convenience. It’s small and practically fits in your palm, and comes with a custom version of Android Oreo that mimics the tiled appearance of the Apple Watch menu screen.

Designed for people who love having phones that they can navigate through with one hand,the Palm comes with a 3.3-inch 1280×720 display with a respectable 445ppi. On the inside sits a Qualcomm Snapdragon 435 SoC, 3GB of RAM, and an unusually small 800mAh battery. You’ve got a 12MP rear camera with a flash, and an 8MP front-facing camera that’s capable of using facial recognition to unlock your phone (given that a 3.3 inch phone is a little on the smaller side for a fingerprint sensor). You’ve also got IP68 dust and water resistance, Bluetooth, GPS, LTE, and believe it or not, USB-C.

The new phone marks the rebirth of the brand that dominated the WebOS age, giving people the feel of a palmtop computer a decade ago. After fizzling out, post being acquired by HP, Palm was sold to TCL in 2014. Launched on the 15th of October with a complete rebranding (and endorsement by Stephen Curry), the new and improved Palm is poised to be the “ultraphone that’s designed to serve as a smaller, simplified companion to a larger smartphone.”

Designer: Palm

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The world’s next breakthrough product may just come from Microsoft

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Keeping secrets in the tech biz is growing increasingly difficult. With new products being leaked (even sold!) days or months before releases, oftentimes an avid consumer knows pretty much all there is to know about a product well before their launch. Something of a similar nature happened with Microsoft’s keynote last week… except they never launched the product.

Project Andromeda, as it’s codenamed, is one of Microsoft’s best-kept secrets, and is all set to revolutionize our smart-devices as well as put Microsoft back in the limelight as an innovator. Rumor has it that the device was supposed to launch at this year’s keynote, but wasn’t completely ready for a public reveal. A little digging around at the patent office, however, brought to attention some diagrams that gives us a rough idea of what exactly this Project Andromeda is about. The product, as per the patent diagram and the renders created to support it, explores a one-of-a-kind dual display device that folds down to a pocket-worthy size, and when opened, creates a large squarish screen.

Designed to cater to the people who want big screens as well as the people who want small phones, Project Andromeda is quite literally the best of both worlds. Rather than killing bezels to make phone displays marginally bigger, the Project Andromeda finds a workaround by adding two screens on a clamshell device that fold inwards at the hinge, so you don’t get a bezel at the edge where the two screens meet. How Microsoft intends on pulling this off (even from a marketing standpoint), and whether a square shaped device is something a consumer would want is quite frankly still unknown, but let’s see what the future holds for us! Can I say that I’m just happy that this thing doesn’t have a notch?

Designer: Microsoft

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With 4 cameras, the Galaxy A9 wants to be the best mid-range smartphone

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With Pixel’s launch just two days back, it’s pretty evident that the war for phone cameras is clearly between two brands. Apple and Google. As much as other brands like Huawei, Samsung, Oneplus, and Motorola try, they really don’t stand a chance of becoming a mainstream favorite, so Samsung has its sights on a completely different user base. Its Galaxy A series is a flagship in its own category. Meant for the mid-range tier, the A Series in a good phone that often loses the battle to Oneplus, or to Xiaomi’s newly launched brand, Pocophone. Samsung hopes to change that with the Galaxy A9, a phone with not one, not two, not even three, but rather four cameras!

The A9’s four cameras all have their own purposes. They don’t work in unison, like other phones with dual cameras. There’s one 120° wide-angle lens for landscapes, one telephoto lens for crisp portraits and zoomed shots (with 2x optical zoom), a 24 megapixel main camera for your more demanding shots (especially low light ones), and a separate depth camera for calculating distances between foreground and background, so as to apply an effective lens blur, a feature that phones are increasingly pushing for.

While the phone isn’t technically a mid-range phone, given it’s priced at roughly $725, it’s worth noting that Samsung is now bringing the battle to mid-range companies like Oneplus (who’s phones start at $530), in hopes to overthrow the competition back at home in the east. Samsung Mobile CEO DJ Koh said, “In the past, I brought the new technology and differentiation to the flagship model and then moved to the mid-end. But I have changed my strategy this year to bring technology and differentiation points starting from the mid-end.”

The Galaxy A9 comes with 6GB of RAM, a 3,800mAh battery, 128GB of internal storage, a microSD card slot that supports up to 512GB of extra storage, a 6.3-inch Full HD+ display, and… wait for it… a 3.5mm headphone jack! For $725, that’s quite a good feature list, especially if the camera matches up to Samsung flagship standards!

Designer: Samsung

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Google’s Pixel 3 is all about Google flexing its algorithm power

This year’s Made By Google keynote began with the familiar sound of Help by The Beatles playing as the visuals on the stage screen cycled through how Google’s objective in life is to ‘help’ its users. Over the past 20 years, Google has evolved from a search engine, to a browser, to an OS, and spanned into a variety of industries. Email, conferencing, storage, maps, translations, office tools, and conquering the final frontier with the smart home. Google’s mission has been the same throughout. Collect data and process it in a way that empowers and helps you, its user.

Data processing is Google’s secret sauce. Its signature combination of AI, software, and hardware makes Google the giant it is… and with the Pixel 3 (as with the other product launches) Google wants to show how good it is at collecting and assimilating information, in order to be of help.

The phone, which itself was one of the worst kept secrets in the tech industry with its multitudes of press leaks (a little ironic, given that Google is supposed to know a thing or two about protecting data) debuts in two sizes and boasts of larger screens, better speakers, and a whole variety of features that come courtesy Google’s incredible data-assimilating AI (or as Google says, being designed from inside out). Even though last year’s Pixel 2 is still considered the golden standard in phone photography, the Pixel 3 manages to push boundaries with a single lens. The portrait mode is better, and you can now adjust the blur as well as change focus, and now the camera even comes with a feature called Top Shot which allows you to take a burst of incredible pictures and select the best one (or let Google’s AI recommend the best photo to you). The camera still uses Google’s incredible HDR shooting algorithm which helps create beautifully crisp images by taking multiple shots and combining the best bits together, and is now made much better, boasting of an extremely impressive low-light performance, so much so that Google says you’ll never need to use your flash again. The camera software comes with Google Lens built right into it, allowing you to identify people, objects, places, and even fashion. The Lens allows you to click pictures of items of clothing you love and identify where you can purchase them too (nifty!). The new phone also comes with unlimited photo storage (Google really loves its data!), and a new set of AR stickers along with collaborations with Marvel Studios and Childish Gambino. We’re yet to see what experts and reviewers have to say about what may be the new best phone camera in the world, but Google’s managed to partner with photography legend Annie Leibovitz, and we honestly can’t wait to see the images she clicks with them! Also releasing this year are seven magazines (courtesy a tie-up with Condé Nast) with cover photos clicked by the Pixel 3. Even its front cameras sport more heavy-lifting power, with its ability to capture as much as 184% more content in its frame thanks to the new wide-angle lens.

While the Pixel 3’s main focus has been its camera, and the software behind it, Google also debuted its highly anticipated Screen Call feature that lets the Google Assistant answer your calls for you, talking to your callers to let them know you’re busy and taking down messages they may have. CEO Sundar Pichai showcased this revolutionary bit of tech at Google’s I/O keynote and Pixel 3 devices will begin sporting this feature in a month or two. On a side note, the Pixel 3 is also the first Pixel phone to come with built-in wireless charging.

Google’s never been a hardware company. Yes they make an incredible phone, smart speaker, tablet, etc., but its hardware almost always plays second fiddle to Google’s magnum opus, its software and its massive bank of user data that helps it refine its services, and in turn, allows those services to help you.

Designer: Google

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Beautiful, tactile, secure… the Punkt MP02 is the perfect ‘anti-smartphone’

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I wouldn’t go as far as to call the MP02 a ‘dumbphone’ because it isn’t. The phone comes with 4G LTE capabilities, but in almost every regard, it’s the absolute antithesis of your conventional, bezel-less, dual-camera, slick-and-shiny, addictive smartphone.

Styled like a regular phone, the MP02 champions and highlights features that matter, like a utilitarian UI and a UX that caters to one’s basic needs… communication. Recognizing that communication can be done easily by voice and text, the MP 02 sticks to just that, and comes with a monochrome display with legible elements (that are completely text-based for zero ambiguity), and a functional, tactile keypad that you could practically use without looking at.

The MP02 boasts of industry-grade security thanks to Blackberry (the same security used in phones belonging to the members of the White House), and it in-fact does come with a 4G connection that works as a hotspot, allowing you to access the internet on a laptop or tablet ‘if and when needed’. “If anyone wants to talk to me, they can give me a call. Other forms of communication, for example email or social media, are available when I choose to use them – and via a linked device that allows me to use them more effectively.” says Petter Neby, founder of Punkt.

The Punkt. MP02 isn’t, therefore, a dumbphone. It focuses on communication, rather than connection, allowing you to stay efficient and your communication to be effective. And if you’re wondering if the MP02 is as strong as, say, Nokia’s 3310… the outer body of the MP02 is reinforced with glass-fibre and finished with a tough, abrasion-resistant coating… plus, it’s IP52 splash-proof too.

Designer: Jasper Morrison for Punkt.

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